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Rinse and Repeat

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Welcome to the 1999 issues (volumes 105 through 116) of Children, Churches and Daddies (the unreligious, non-family-oriented literary and art magazine), which is drinking, i mean, THINKING our way through the Y2K... “Rinse and Repeat” (ISBN 1-891470-13-2, $12.00, First Edition, copyright © 1998, 1999 Scars Publications and Design) is a collection book of poetry, prose, essays, philosophical rants, art and general tirades of all these issues, finishing off the 1900s from Scars Publications. So rep-eee-tay see vous play...

note from the publisher

Rinse and Repeat is filled with poetry, prose and art. from the 1999 issues of a literay magazine “Children, Churches and Daddies”, contest results and award winners. This book, as a whole, is fiction, and no correlation should be made between events in this book and events in real life.
Okay, I got the technical stuff out of the way. Can I go home now?
The magazine CC&D has gone through a lot on the past 5 years. Yes, it has been five years... Sometimes we could not afford getting the issues out regularly, and sometimes we had the time and the energy and produced issues at twice every month. CC&D has gone through at least four different people helping on staff, in addition to the insane number of writers and artists who have submitted materials to CC&D to be a part of it... however, through all that time, I have stayed on board with it and kept the literary magazine alive and well.
A lot of personal problems have sprung up to the editorial staff in recent years, anything from marriage proposals to travelling around the continent to almost being killed to movingfive or six times to... Oh, I know there is more on this one, but I hope that gives you the idea. A lot of people go through a lot in order to keep going sometimes, and we have gone through a lot to keep CC&D alive. This year it is running a bit differently than in past years, and it is a fitting way to run the last year that starts with a one as the first digit...
CC&D has the usual following sections: editorial, poetry, news your can use, humor, prose, and philosophy monthly. In 1998, 1997 and 1996 CC&D has come in standard sizes and not digest sizes. There have been color covers, and there has been continuity in how often the issues appeared. This year it is running a little differently, we are going to take out the stuff that takes up additional space, and combine all the poetry and prose together into one big book.
That would be this one.
R&R has calendar entries and CC&D entries and book and chapbook contest entries. We cut out from this book the news and the humor; we wanted to be able to fit in all the good poetry and prose that we could...
So I have done everything I could to avoid my own writing in this collection. So, if you were looking for writing by Janet Kuypers, you would have to go and buy one of her books from Scars Publications. Hee hee. I did put a few poems in here, ones I wrote in the beginning of 1999, which are a perfect lead-in to my good news.
I am engaged. I met a man who put up with all the garbage that I had to go through, and he helped me through a lot of my problems. He had every opportunity to play “ding dong ditch” and leave me, but he didn’t.
His name is John. And he will frequent covers of future issues of CC&D (like the image on this page suggests). He has given me so much in my life that I cannot ask for more sometimes. And no, although I like his last name, I did not plan on changing my last name to his. I like my signature with my old last name too much...

Janet Kuypers
Children, Churches and Daddies

this book is dedicated to overcoming struggles,
to losing what you care about, to selfishness, to freedom,
and most importantly, this book to dedicated to Mr. John Yotko

P.S.: I wanted to take what little space I had left to thank everyone for all the time and talent they put into making this magazine - and this book - a reality. And I would like to finish off this letter with a poem that I wrote with john, called stairs.

- Janet Kuypers

Stairs (written by j.k. and j.y.)

I’m sick of these stairs that I have to take,
I keep having to climb up, & I get nowhere

twisting around in a spiral I rise
like the wrought iron balusters,
that need the rust cleaned off
& a fresh coat of paint

there are so many things I need,
& I wonder if scraping the damage is enough
or if covering what has been done is enough,
if this rising is enough
because I’m wondering
if anything I do is enough
won’t somebody tell me will anyone tell me
the leaden weight
keeps dragging me down

I’ve been looking for someone
nobody has the answers anymore
because I know what I’m doing
& no one has been able to make it better

scraping & painting
I’ve got to keep going
I’ve found the strength
& the beauty that put these stairs in here
with each stroke of the brush
my load’s getting lighter,
the burden easier to bear
I see what I’ve fixed
it is beginning to become amazing
all that I can see below,
that I have managed to overcome,
that I have gone through
I have made it past a lot
am I going to be lucky enough
to make it to the top of these damn stairs
where I will have a great view from the top

& no one else
will get to see this view with me?

with me & my paint scrapers
my buckets of paints & brushes
I look & I see others below me
struggling & I’ve got to tell them
it is hell to do it, it’s not fun, I’ll admit it
but when you count all the chips
at the end of the game of stairs
you’ll have the most pieces
you’ll be the winner
& if you have to stand there alone
at least you’ll know that you made it
& you know, I know it’s hell
but you’ve got to keep telling yourself
that each step, each stair, is worth it

so I’ll scrape & I’ll climb, I’ll paint, climb more
I’ve been told there is happiness
happiness somewhere - if I only can make it
if only I can take it
take the pain of climbing these stairs

contest winners

editors choice award winner All Fool’s Day

Robert J. Savino

Oh no, this can’t be snow
It’s almost April, almost Easter
And Spring’s skirt began to show

Perhaps it’s feathers from the pillow
Of frolicking angels
Winter’s breath in exit below
Old-timers anticipating Opening Day.
Hurling curving comets low,
Fiery tials down-spinning slow.

Whatever this woe
It dissolves by next day’s warn light
Sending flooding water to seep below,
A drunkenness for Spring’s flowers
Winter’s foolishness bestow.

Ah, but we are all fools
Not to know...
If it’s HIS will, then it’s snow.

editors choice award winner Rotation to Winter

Susan Terris

Red is mostly gone, but faded yellow
maples i the air, spirals in the wind,
stars the wet ground.

Clouds serge until I can feel
the earth’s rotation to winter.
Wind-messages fan from the north.
Sun behinf clouds
masquerades as a cold evening moon.

Having left this place as a girl,
I return as to a foreign land,
surprised to find
there is
one last rose of summer

bright amid the rusting brown.
But now this is an alien place.
I have no coat to stop the wind, no
way to keep the rose.

editors choice award winner “FINAL FANTASY”

Ann Rich

Follow me and I will follow you only to sacrifice and pledge my soul.
Now known only as one!
Soaring in the winds with inspirations exploding rapidly, one by one.
It is your final fantasy to live again!
Victim of suicide revealed by fate and conquered by the depths of love!
Life of life has just begun!
The warmest touch begs respect for the quality found deep within.
It is your final fantasy to finally begin!

Encouraged by belief to uphold the strength of destiny,
Yet, embraced with one final last thought!
A kiss of pleasure obscures the kiss goodbye!
Accompanied with its warmth to please!
It is your final fantasy to bow down for this trade!
Subtle with perfection you are as pure as a dove.
Your desire is to never ever get caught!
Insensitive delights begin to dwell within!
You burn and ache for a place to belong!
It is your final fantasy to conquer these steps which you have made!

Sacrifice those objectives captured and held in time!
Acknowledge your very own self with the quality only known by you!
Fly away with me, but only for a moment!
Embrace only that which enlightens the moment seized!
It is your final fantasy to touch and feel everything you never knew!
Life is a mystery, yet, we uphold its true value in dignity!
Harvest your life moment by moment!
Make it your very own prey for the little ones who never knew!
Gather the sensation and absorb the life as you breathe this air!
It is your final fantasy to indulge the intrigued and explore all of you!

Release yourself from the depths of love and find what it is that you seek!
Life of life has just begun! Looking up and looking down, never all the way around!
The loss of control is the loss you will gain!
It is your final fantasy to whisper in the dark and to cry in plain sight!
Open minds with open hearts capture the true essence, for they belong!
Spirits fly and soar with so much strength!
They find the treasure you have never found!
It is your final fantasy to escape your darkness and to find your light!

editors choice award winner “BOTTLES IN MY SOUL”

Ann Rich

A moment perfected in time.
A moment you gather and need.
The scent of roses adrift in your air,
The softness of its freshest petal, this you store.
The warmest and brightest day ever,
This is the day that you can feel the air that you breathe,
For this is your God given right!
The sound of gathering birds in motion,
Chirping all about, for it is their young that they must feed.
Days that go by are never gone forever,
For they live inside of life to further explore.
Every single moment accounted for, even those in sight!
For it’s the bottles in my soul that still keeps them airtight!

An hour that goes by is never forgotten,
For they are simply misplaced.
A dark night with its big bright stars,
For they are everywhere, a true moment to believe.
A dampened ground, wet with its sweet honey dew,
Covering your cold bare feet, a moment of pleasure indeed.
The midnight crawlers invade the night,
Joyfully in their own harmony and singing with grace.
Nights go by time and time again,
They all remain the same because this you conceive.
The time on the clock just keeps ticking and ticking,
For it’s the bottles in my soul that still keeps collecting and collecting!

A day has gone by, a day that meant nothing to you, or so you thought.
A quick glance of today’s memories instantly floods you.
Not one second thought, you shove them aside, once again.
No more thoughts, simply a relaxed mind on your terms and on your time.
The scent of roses drift all about and gather in your air,
Followed by the taste of the sweet honey dew wet on your lips.
“ Ah”, such a candid splendor, this moment is caught!
Such a relaxed moment, not one single care.
Everything becomes so much more clear as this journey begins.
So much within you forever lives and so much yearns to thrive!
For it’s the bottles in my soul that still keeps bringing me back alive!

editors choice award winner October’s Opal

Robert J. Savino

(for Sabrina)

October is here, once again,
Barely transcending the threshold of autumn.
The maple turning yellow to orange to red,
soom to be bared by winter.

Winter, when blankets of bliss
Sover sppon-fit bodies, flickering sparks to flames...
Until love of spring gardens
Becomes the rapture of summer bloom

And looking from outside-in,
beyond recognizable beauty,
the ruby of jewels glows bright
pumping currents of rivers red,
deep into wells of every extremity.
Our chest full of laughter.

When apart, that brief sabbatical,
This season stays with you
Whether I am or not,
And your voice with me
Through wind’s immutable breath.

editors choice award winner “THE FREE SPIRIT”

Ann Rich

Blinded by the light,
Such a bright light it is.
The mystical magic rushes through your veins, so much bliss!
Enticed you are, conflicts with priorities are now such a vague thought.
Magnetism has taken control, you have submitted because you have lost.
Your mind is so very warm, oh how you want more!
Ah, the free spirit has indulged, now you are free to soar.

Never such a high, for they are nonexistent!
But where were you?
Your soul bottles your magical moments, merits capped for later use!
Your soul erupts into volcanic ash, explosive satisfaction no longer withheld.
Penetrated from this impact hides a man you truly have never felt.
Analytical reasoning becomes prominent, but you are still so very, very warm.
Ah, the free spirit has indulged, the fires of passion you have scorn.

Speechless! You are mesmerized at this sudden capture of your soul.
Up in the clouds and aimless, but never this high!
These are the things you always wanted to know but didn’t explore.
Life has just adapted your ultimate glide.
This stimulation has intensified who and what you are.
You are your own natural high, your body aches and swells for so much more!
You are so free and uninhibited.
Ah, the free spirit has indulged, the depths of your intensity has been well exhibited!

Uninhibited expression you have found, an eruption of life you now can feel.
The warmth of your touch is always fertile in the prairie and productive in the fields.
Feeling your insides tingle and swell with delight,
All is simply a matter of passing through time.
Pure self satisfaction rises and spreads throughout,
Such a release to be no longer confined.
Placing priorities in perspective has become obsolete,
You’ve been set free from your cage!
Ah, the free spirit has indulged, engraving the mind, body, and soul to search and save!

Passion has been well defined in the man you are,
So much pressure inside of you!
Surrounded with awareness, so very warm you are.
Enchanted by a world you never knew,
Your mind is seduced in the clouds and carried by a free lad.
An eruption with ignition guaranteed!
Life with no weights and free to soar because you have captured your need.
Feeling the flames burn higher, you are intoxicated with the thoughts you now have.
Ah, the free spirit has indulged, moving rapidly through what you have never had.

You are now complete because you finally belong.
You have felt its mystical magic when it has come and gone.
Absorbing all of life’s magical sensations, you have touched them all!
Penetrated by the strength within you, yet open for this incredible free fall.
Feeling the moment to just let it all go, an ecstasy forbidden by you.
Ah, the free spirit, it is in you and you know exactly what to do!

editors choice award winner “THE BATTLE WITHIN”
Ann Rich

Love and trust, the battle within.
One of armor and one of cloth.
Both equal in strength and at a great loss.
Cornered by time to live again,
A moment to go back to where you have been.
The principles of pleasure intrude a pleasant dream.
Love and trust, the battle within shouts its damning scream!
One of armor and one of cloth, both determined to rise again!

Conflict and pressure begin to adhere to this occasion.
One second to catch a thought, stop, go, or yield?
Beset with these restless conflicts, a need to release introduces itself.
Provoked to endure a graceful truce, the weak one falls to submission.
Love and trust, the battle within proclaims the very same guild.
One of armor and one of cloth, both of strength in the world we build.

editors choice award winner “The Moon Between The Trees”

Ann Rich

It was the night after the full moon,
This was the night that I saw the moon between the trees.
It was huge,
The color of melon,
My world was lit as my life had instantly risen.
I saw light gray clouds, all dismayed with its dark blue visions.

My moment had come forth and all at once I felt a life inside begin to breathe.
Three decades of life had passed by me.
Cascades of shadows erupting, dark and gray.
Now they evolve in true sight, and this for my eyes to see!
“Oh My God”!
“Oh God”, this is my world, all mine,
And this is what I have dropped before Thee?
At such a long distance, that glimmer has covered over me.
So many nights I lay before Thee.
Not one word, and not even one moment heard,
For it was silence, For I could not breathe!

An hour had passed since I saw the moon between the trees,
It had vanished and no longer could I see.
The dark blue vision, the one that could not breathe.
I saw the melon with its glimmer, the one that had covered over me.
I felt the breath that I could not breathe.
“Oh My God”! My God, I have found what I lay before Thee!
I have found the vision of gray and how huge it was to see!
“Oh My God”! Dear God, I have forsaken this precious life you have given to me!

editors choice award winner “RIPPLES IN THE SEA”

Ann Rich

When I see this moon and gaze deep into the stars,
My mind wanders as I search for where you are.
Looking up, looking down,
This enormous sea is where I can now be found.
Standing at this oceans edge and hearing its roar,
My heart pounds and aches for so much more.
Gazing deeper and deeper out into this vast blue sea,
I can gather myself and this soul given to me.

Ripples in the sea is what I now can see.
One by one they collide with a force to touch this given me.
Infinity with the depths of this sea,
This is what the moonlit ocean conveys to the truth inside of me.
Standing alone and afar from the depths of this sea,
Ripples and ripples capture this breath inside of me.
Oh how they carry every single thought away inside of me!

Reflections of our moon spread across this glimmering sea.
Endless and endless ripples!
This vision I will forever see.
I hold my breath and carry a true smile,
Searching for that last ripple to reach its hundredth mile.
Alone I stand at the edge of this sea,
The depths of this ocean covers over me.
I wonder and wonder can I truly hold this given me?
If ever in search for that which you believe,
Please know that I left me standing with the ripples in the sea!

One by one they collide crashing directly into me.
I stand with the force given just for me.
Come to me!
Please touch me,
Feel what was given to me!
If ever in doubt for that which you believe?
Look deeper and deeper out into this incredible sea!
The ripples one by one they believe.
They touch, they feel, they hear what is left standing by the sea,
And that is what God has given to me.



alan catlin

The circle
is nothing
a wall centered
in stones
below paneled
windows sky
lights parts
to some things
let in as
light is
and air
this is what
the physical
world reveals
It is what
lies within
that concerns
me now -
later it will
be what lies

Bright Light

Robert J. Savino

‘Tis the season to follow one light...
Bits of which weave little stories
the spirit of family.
Bits of which hold hope
for Tiny Tim Crachets.
Bits of which guide night travels
of Santa’s Cherub-Cheeked believers.

Tis the season to follw one light...
Carolers harmonize,
leaving footprint in winters white gown,
quiet snowflakes melting on lips.
Friends sharing festive spirit
sharade around mistletoe
the flower of excusable kisses.
See men decorate white bond trees
with ink-lined garland
and matchstick lights of red.

Tis the season to follw one light...
Illustrious over a stable in Bethlehem.
Sheep, goats, oxenflock.
Wisemen give gifts, shepards guard,
Angels sing.
Black bull, white bird -
Straw of peace.

‘Tis this light, born this night over seasons


“Type A” Person

Janet Kuypers

I was in my friend’s car once, and she was driving through the streets of Chicago, and she was letting people in who were getting in the right lane at an intersection when that right lane really should only be used for turning right but they go straight and try to cut off the long line of traffic waiting at the light. Well, as I said, she’s letting these people get in front of her, and she’s stopping at four-way stop intersections and waving other cars to go in front of her, and when she is going she’s going under the speed limit, and I’m thinking, my god, she’s under thirty years old and she’s driving like she’s twice her age and I want to tell her to get going because damnit, I don’t want to die in this car, I’ve got a lot of living to do, I’ve never jumped out of an airplane or made a million dollars or been in a lustful affair with a high-ranking political candidate, and if I am going to go out I surely don’t want to die of boredom while someone else is staying in the most congested lane of traffic when they could just as easily get into the next lane and cut everyone off in front of them when they eventually have to merge, like I would most certainly do.

And then it occurred to me, and of course it filled me with a complete and utter sense of elation, because I just love being pigeon-holed into stereotypical psychological categories: I really am a Type A person.

There’s an intersection near my house where from one direction you can either go straight or turn right, and there are two streets that merge into this one, both turning right, so the middle street has a “no turn on red” sign. And usually when I’m on this road I’m on the street that’s going straight, the left-most street, and these two streets are on my right, merging into my street. And I always catch the red light on this street, it’s like the traffic gods are displeased with my constant efforts to circumvent their wrath, so I’m always catching the red light at this street, so I’ve learned a new trick: I turn right, onto the first street on my right, but instead of doing a U-turn I turn left at the next block so I can get on that second street, all so I can turn right onto the street I was on originally before both of the other streets get to go so I can beat every one of those slow bastards to the next intersection.

I mean, yes, I’m the one that’s yelling and banging the stering wheel of my car when people on the road are idiots. Yes, I’m that person who has to race so that I can slam on my brakes at that next intersection, only 100 feet away, and yes, I am only driving a Saturn SL1, a sedan with about as much power as a 1982 Ford Mustang, but damnit, I won’t go down without a fight, I will be out there cutting everyone off, weaving in and out of traffic; I will be the one getting there before you, trust me, I will.

And even when I’m tuning the radio while driving, because, you see, I do that and put on my make-up and take notes for work and check over my schedule and if I was the Hindu god BISHNU and had ten arms I’d get a cel phone and send out faxes and eat dinner and write a novel while I was at it, but, as I said, even when I’m tuning the radio while I’m driving I only let the first second-and-a-half of the song play before I’m disgusted and change the dial to the next pre-programmed station, just to instantaneously become disgusted another six times and have to find a tape to play because all those stupid corporate pieces of shit think they should play crap over and over again in order to keep the mindless tuned in.

Well, not me, thank you very much, I don’t have the patience for that.

So, needless to say, I’ve discovered that this is a problem of mine, I wish there was some sort of therapy group for this so I could go to my weekly “Type A Anonymous” meetings, but we’d probably all be pushing each other out of the doorway thirty seconds before the meeting is supposed to start, saying, “Get out of my way ass-hole, you should have thought about being late before you tried to cut me off,” and the meetings themselves would probably be filled with people yelling, “Hey, jerk, I think I was talking, what, do you think you’re god or something, show some respect.”

God, and I know this is a problem of mine, I know this “Type A-ness” transcends into every realm of my life. When I get on the elevator in the morning to get to my office on the eighteenth floor, I try to make the doors close as quickly as possible so no one can get on the elevator with me, because you know, I really do hate all people and surely don’t want to be in a cramped confined space with a bunch of strangers. But when people do get on the same elevator as me, they invariably press the buttons for floors fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, and I start pursing my lips, stopping myself from saying, “Oh, you people couldn’t stand to walk a flight of stairs, you just had to press all of these buttons and stop me from getting to my god-damned floor in a reasonable amount of time.”

Even walking on the sidewalk in the city, I always get stuck behind someone that’s a full foot shorter than me and a full thirty pounds heavier, someone who labors to walk very, very slowly, someone who actually sways rhythmically when they walk, like a metronome, or like a person standing on the edge of a dance floor, rocking back and forth, back and forth all too afraid to actually ask someone to dance, or else afraid to go out and dance and make a fool of themselves in front of the cool people who have figured out what rhythm really is. And I’m walking behind this person, almost tripping over myself because this walking pace is just unnaturally slow, so to pass the time until there’s an opening on the left side of the sidewalk so I can pass them and walk like a human being again I start to mimick them, swaying with my walk, more for my own entertainment than anyone else’s.

Yes, more than a human being I’m a human doing, and I hate having to depend on the schedules of others in order to get ahead of them all.

Yes, I am the person in line at the grocery store with three items, shifting my weight from foot to foot, frantically scanning the other lines, the person who wants to ask the person in front of them, “can’t I get in front of you, I’ve only got three items and you have two full crocery carts full of crap like Cheetos, Pepsi, fish sticks and Haagen Daz Cookie Dough ice cream.” Yes, I am the person who has four different sets of plans for any given evening because if any one event gets too boring I can pick up and say, “Oh, sorry, I’m supposed to be at a meeting by now,” instead of having to tell them that they’re too boring or that I just have no idea whatsoever of how to relax. Yes, I am the person who coasts toward an intersection when I know the timed pattern of the traffic lights, and know that I can manage to get to this intersection without ever having to make a complete stop so when that light does change I can accellerate faster than everyone else, pass everyone by, and have the open road to myself, wide open in front of me.

I’m already guessing that at my funeral, when the long procession of cars is creeping toward the cemetary, I’ll be opening that casket up and whispering to the driver of the hearse, “hey, what do you say we floor it and blow everyone off in line? We could probably grab a beer at the corner bar and still be able to beat everyone to the grave site,” because, as I said, I’m a “Type A” person, and I’m going to make damn sure I do as much living as I possibly can, I’m not going down without a fight, and wherever that god-damned goal line is, I swear, I’ll beat everyone to it.

Get The Government Out Of Broadcasting

by Janet Kuypers

I would like to commend NBC’s stand on keeping the government out of regulating the broadcast industry.
After pressure from the government as well as various organizations, the major networks uniformly adopted at television rating system, like the current system the movie industry uses to regulate content and inform viewers of movies. Since the enactment of this new system, however, groups have been complaining that the rating system in lpace does not tell viewers enough about why the shows received that rating. Is it because there is bad manguage? Is there sexual content? Id there violence? A “TV14” Rating doesn’t not discern one type of adult theme from another, and groups have been pushing for an adoption of a plan similar to the current system used by the Home Box Office cable channel - one with a list that quickly shows more of a program’s content, using such abbreviations as “SC for sexual content or “AL” for adult language.
Then the government aggreed that this would be a good idea. So they asked the networks to come together and come up with a plan.
The network NBC was the only major network that chose not to adopt the plan. They stated swiftly that it is not because they don’t want to tell people what the content of a given show is, but that they don’t want the government telling them to adopt a system. They also stated in press releases that they will be working on their own plan for a system that will help people better understand what exactly is on the shows they are about to watch.
I applaud the fact the NBC was willing to distance themselves from appeasing the first group loud enough to be heard, when it may not be in NBC’s best interest to do so. More importantly, I applaud the fact the NBC was willing to distance themselves from government regulation, and that they were willing to state that that is exactly what they were doing.
When individual citizens find something they don’t like about the goods and services they receive, they should not make it the government’s job to try to remedy the situation. The government is there to protect individual citizens from the force of others - not from television programming that one group of people or another might not like.
I truly appreciate the fact that NBC concisely points out that it’s not that they don’t want to inform people about programming, if that’s what they want, but that don’t want that authority to be placed in the hands of an already-too-powerful government. NBC’s press release on the issue stated, “NBC has consistently stated that, as a matter of principle, there is no place for government involvement in what people watch on television. Viewers, not politicians or special interest groups, should regulate the remote control”.
If people want to do something about broadcasting, they can request information on an individual basis or bring other individuals together into a group who have the same feelings in order to make information about programming easier to get. It is possible, as a citizen or a group of citizens, to make a difference - it isn’t necessary to expect the government to do it for you.
Give a government some power, and they will eventually take more - see any dictatorship or any form of communism and socialism as an example (even see the history of our own government - we have been slowly losing more and more of our rights here in America). Thank you, NBC, for understanding that the rights of individuals also include the rights of business people - and those rights should not be given away so quickly.

Veggies of the World Unite

by Janet Kuypers

I’d like to tell you something about myself that usually scares most red-blooded Americans. I don’t want you to think I’m going to try to brainwash you, I don’t want you to think I’m going to give you a lecture. Just brace yourself, and hear me out.
I’m a vegetarian.
Okay, okay, don’t fly off the handle, I know you think I’m some sort of wacko that’s going to throw paint at you or chain myself to a tree. I swear, no such activities ever cross my mind (except in occasional circumstances that differ greatly from saving the planet, and that’s another story for another time).
If you don’t think I’m crazy, well, thanks. But most everyone else seems to, and I honestly don’t know why. I’ve chosen to think about what I put in my mouth and why I put it there, and for that I’m considered crazy.
Here, let me explain how I got to this point.
I was travelling around the East Coast by car for New Year’s one year, I think it was three years ago. And I noticed that whenever we stopped for fast food I was eating a chicken sandwich. (Yes, this one odd little point is relevant in the story, just read on.) At one point in our trip we stopped at a hotel in the Pocinos for a night, and the hotel was a series of cabins instead of the usual high-rise. So as we were going to out room, outside, we found a cat. She had a collar on, so we knew she belonged to someone, someone probably travelling as well. She was a very friendly cat, an affectionate cat. So when we started to open the door to our hotel room, I said to the cat (why do we talk to animals anyway? It’s not like she ever would understand what I was saying), “Do you want to come in?” I thought she would stay outside and we could go into our rooms and that would be that. But she turned around and marched right into our room before us.
So we had a new visitor.
We played with the cat, we even took pictures of the cat, seeing that we had our cameras, being on vacation and all. And the cat knew humans. The cat responded to humans. The cat understood joy and pain. I could see that in what little interaction I had with the cat.
Eventually we figured we better let the cat outside, she’s going to need to go to the bathroom, and besides, her family is probably looking for her. So we let her go.
And we got in the car the next morning and started to drive home, still ten hours away.
And then we approached lunch. We were stopping at a fast-food joint, I think Burger King.
And then I made the connection.
We in America look at certain animals as thinking, and certain animals as glorified plants. But it’s really only how we’ve been raised to think of these animals, the distinctions are only in our minds. That cat I saw the night before was a living, feeling creature. And in China that cat would have been hanging in the front window of a store, considered a delicacy.
And in India the cow is sacred.
So I said, let me try to not eat meat for a little while. You know, if I feel the urge to eat meat, I can have a chicken sandwich once every two weeks.
But let me try this, to see how I feel about it.
And with every day that passed, I wanted the consumption of meant out of my life more and more. I knew I made the right decision.
It was a strange decision for me to make. I had never thought of being a vegetarian before. I don’t know why it popped into my head at that moment - why I decided to make this kind of change then. I always knew that cats and dogs were eaten in other cultures. I always knew that the cow was sacred in India. I always knew that meat was eaten the most in America - because of our global overabundance of wealth.
So I decided to try it. And I’ve never looked back.
Okay, now comes the onslaught of questions, I’m sure. So, do you try to convert others? So, do you harass hunters and people who wear fur coats?
Well, I don’t think so... Well, okay, maybe a little.
So sue me for wanting to make the world a better place.

What Are Flexible Ethics?

by Janet Kuypers

The Lutheran Brotherhood compiled the following statistics: Nearly two-thirds of all adults believe ethics “vary by situation” or that there is no “unchanging ethical standard or right and wrong.” Nearly eighty percent of all adults from age 18 to 34 believe ethics vary by situation, but even forty-eight percent af all adults aged 65 and up believe ethics vary by situation. Never did a majority of adults believe that there is one standard for every situation.

Now, I needed to look up the word “ethics” to make sure I wasn’t getting confused with my terms. According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition), “ethic” has the following meanings:
1. the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation,
2. a set of moral principles or values,
3. a theory or system of moral values,
4. the principles of moral conduct governing an individual or a group,
5. a guiding philosophy.
This made me want to look up “moral,” just to make sure I had this all clear:
1. of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior,
2. expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior,
3. conforming to a standard of right behavior,
4. sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgement.
What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that what is “right” and “wrong,” what is “good” and “bad,” can change from situation to situation. What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that the principles guiding themselves and change from moment to moment. What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that a “guiding philosophy” cannot be consistent.
I looked at these numbers and was astounded. If the philosophy an individual uses to guide their life is not consistent, it’s not a philosophy at all.

Consider it from a religious standpoint. In Catholicism, for instance, you should not have sex before marriage, or commit adultery. Religious leaders may forgive an individual if they have sinned, their god may forgive them if they repent, but in Chritsianity is it wrong to have sex before marriage or commit adultery. But there are Catholics who break both of these promises they have made with their religion - with their philosophy. And although the adulterers may ask forgiveness, there are Catholics who claim to be Catholics but still have no problem with having sex before marriage (as long as you don’t get caught, I suppose). But what this means is that these Catholics have claimed one philosophy and followed another. If they really believed in their Catholic ethics, they would not want to break them. It’s that simple.
And this was in no way to pick on Catholicism versus any other religious belief - or any belief system, for that matter, that an individual claims to follow but does not follow - it is merely to show that a belief system is consistent, and it is the individuals who choose not to follow it consistently.

Consider, as another example, the fourth definition of “ethic.” What if the principles of moral conduct for a group that you were in weren’t consistent, what if they changed from situation to situation? What if one week it supported you as a member of the group because you got a job at a good business, for being good at what you do, and the next week they were condemning you because a black person should have had the job instead of you? What if one week the group supports your skill in creating a new product to improve people’s lives, the next week they are telling you that your time is better spent feeding people who don’ t work for themselves? What if one week the group said they should support life and wouldn’t let a woman in the group get an abortion, and the next week it decided it should reject life and kill your brother, who was falsely accused of murder and is in prison? What if one week the group said the government should lower taxes, and the next week it proclaims that it’s the government’s responsibility to help the poor, with more of your tax dollars?
I won’t even talk about the fact that this “group” is merely a collection of individuals, each with rights that should not be violated. I won’t even talk about you as an individual having the right to your own life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But imagine not knowing what laws will be enacted, not knowing what freedoms will be given to you and what freedoms will be taken away. Imagine not being able to gauge what will happen to your future. This is what it’s like to have ethics that “vary by situation.”
This is what is currently happening in our society today - people do not have a consistent set of values, of morals, of theics - and it makes living a chronic state of terror.

Why do people, knowing these inconsistencies, living as if there are no absolutes, why do people continue to live this way?
Our current philosophy classes teach people that “the world is in chaos.” That “you can’t make a difference.” They question whether you can prove that you’re not dreamiung through your entire life, or tell you that you can’t even prove if you are merely a part of someone else’s dream and do not even exist. They tell you to answer any difficult question with, “How should I know? I’m only human.”
People are rational beings - that’s what separates us from animals. People need to use their rational faculties in order to thrive. But they can choose not to use their mind - and the consequences are evident in the current trends in philosophy.
People, when faced with these alternatives for philosophy, turn to the religion that was forced down their throats as a child, to the same religion forced down their parent’s throats when they were children, and claim that as their philospphical system. But they don’t really believe in it, they don’t really follow it.
But they need something, their mind keeps telling them, they need some sort of system of beliefs. And so they keep telling their mind to shut out the fact that the system they chose isn’t working for them.
But what they should be doing is listening to their minds, following logic and reason, so that they can find a consistent set of answers to every question they face in life.

women without men

by Janet Kuypers

Women struggle with this every day.
Oh, that such an awful way to start this off, because no men believe that women have it rough. Women don’t have to go to work if they don’t want to. Women don’t have to worry about hard-ons in public.
I’ve been struggling with writing all of this down. I want to let people that women feel like they are doing something wrong if they don’t have a man. But I think that men would laugh at this. I think men would say it’s not that bad.
I keep thinking that men will never understand this, no matter how hard I try to explain it to them. I mean, how do men feel like they have to fit in? How do they feel like they’re less of a man if they aren’t wanted by a certain group? Is that as prevalent for men as it is for women? Men can be bachelors late in their thirties, and it’s attributed to theire desire to be free, their ability to not get tied down, while women are looked at as failures.
But how do I explain that to men?
I should ask around. I mean, do men feel like they have to fit into this image of masculenity? Do men feel like they have to try out for the football team, even if they don’t want to? And do they feel like a failure when they can’t just be themselves, when something else is expected of them?
Maybe I could explain it like this to men:
1. Think of the idea of being famous and liked only because you were the son of someone who was famous. Like, you know, the president’s son (think of Ron Reagan, for instance) or a movie star’s son, or even think of all the attention being placed on Princess Diana’s children now, even though they were princes, now they’re only getting a ton of attention now that she’s passed away.
2. Now think about being raised to gain fame or acceptance only because of who you happen to be related to, whether it be a movie star or nobility. That you don’t matter, that only the people you’re related to matter.
That if you aren’t related to someone with that kind of pull, you better marry someone with that kind of pull, or you’ll be nobody.
Or at least marry soneone, because if you can’t even marry someone there’s no point of trying to succeed in any circles.
Well, could they take the leap and see that women have been taught that the only way they can become anything is to be attached to a man, the way that son would be attached to the movie star? And what kind of life is led trying to be attached to someone instead of trying to be the best yourself? And what kind of world is it that says you’re nothing unless you’re attached to someone else, that you’re not enough on your own?
So this is what I’m struggling with. How to even explain what the feeling is like to be a woman, exepect to be attached to a man, to half the world. Trust me, they think you’re crazy.
Well, the thing is, yeah, it is crazy to feel that as a woman you have to be attached to someone like that. That being in something as destructive as an abusive relationship is better than being alone, because if you had to end the relationship everyone would think you weren’t a good woman. That you were a failure.
Obviously, however, women feel it. And have felt it. It’s evident in the records of domestic abuse. Of rape. And of marriages that have plodded along unhappily, because the woman in the relationship decided not to make waves. Do stick with it for the children’s sake.
It’s evident in the fact that older single women are called “old maids.” It’s evident in the fact that women try to catch a mate while men try to avoid the ball-and-chain. It’s evident when people refer to women going to college to get their “M.R.S.” degree, to find a man.
And if there are all of these factors telling women all of their lives that they need a man by their side, a man to take care of them, a man to make life easier for them, why wouldn’t they play that role? Women are read fairy tales where a damsel in distress is saved by her knight in shining armour. Women saw their father go off to work and their mother take care of them. Women got teased and called a tom boy for liking non-feminine things. Women even change their title, much less their name - mron miss to misses - when they finally get to have to hold a man. Societal influences from day one nudge women into this role, to depend on men.
So then what? So then they’re abused. Physically beaten by a brutal mate. Or mentally abused, told they’re worthless, that they’ll never get any better.
And their choices are:
They can leave the man that they’ve been told all their lives they need, or
They can stick with what they have, because they think it’s better than nothing.
Does this explain why battered wives don’t leave their husbands?
Okay, I know I seem to be going on a lot of tangents here, but all of these things relate to each other. The point of this essay is that just as it’s silly and hard to imagine a man would HAVE to ride the coat tails of someone else in order to achieve anything in life, so should be the same for women. Women can succeed on their own, whether or not they happen to be in a relationship with a man or not.
But women have been taught not to think that way.
And when they do happen to stand up for themselves, they’re often ridiculed for it.
And it’s an uphill battle to overcome these influences, the teachings of society, of their family, of their mate.
But it can be done. A healthy mind, a desire to achieve, determination, these are the things that help you succeed in life.
Not in someone else. In yourself.


Djam Karet
Donnie R. Strickland

Shut down like a sun gone cold, I ignore you.
Locked away in my silent skull
Until life necessitates my leaving,
But for now you do not posses such a key.

I wait for the conversational catalyst
That will move me, but I am catatonic
In your presence.

In Indonesia they have a name for it:

Djan Karet-
The hour that stretches.

Nothing so ornate comes to mind
When dealing with you,
Though time does wax and wan
Out of Synchronicity when you’re around.

I exhale, clench my fist and purge myself
Of the venom of vulgarities
That has accumulated in my mind,
Like urine filling a bladder.

At least I know that today
My words have been a
Torrential piss of poor articulation, but youÉ
You posses but one opening on your entire body
And the essence of you is pushed forcible out
With every syllable;
Pure, adulterated, shit.

Djan Karet-
The poem that stretches.

Every moment of every hour
Of everyday your
Dialect is defecation
I don’t have to endure itÉ

I will warn others.

Stomach Documents

Donnie R. Strickland

I. Alex once knew the world through five favorite crayons:

blue, red-what was the use of white-purple, green,
and sometimes a dirty, dirty brown, all weird wax shapes
that represents things higher than those upon his five-year-old
fingers or of eyes and clouds that eat, belch, and sleep to become
brighter bodies with long, snaking octopus arms that hug the
largeness of the sky and of pennies minted after 1982 are pretty
and copper, taste bad, like blood, and are filled with 95% zinc
so that when swallowed it reacts with hydrochloric acid in that
tender tummy of his to form hydrogen gas and zinc chloride,
eroding the stomach’s lining and then the coming of signs that
mean emerging or emergency or of going into or like the exits
of leaving, only not.

II. Alex now knew the world through two colors:

green-what was the use of white-and gray
and maybe just sometimes the monetary did not tendril
into his mind when he could count his account upon his
sixty-two-year-old fingers and that hue in-between the
black and white that represented the absurdity of life
between extremes like most people are, just bland
charachtures of brighter people cloned and sometimes
he thought of killing with crayons and filling the wounds
with wax or the aspirations of all those aspirins consumed
or taken day after day in an attempt to hone the blade
healthy beneath medicinal millstones and washed down
with the carbonated bubbles of a soda to eat a hole in the
lining of a distended stomach once it augurs in deeper into
metaphysical depths until it emerges or becomes an
emergency or of going into or like the exits or leaving,
only not.


Steven S. Nam
Xv Dova

How does the universe work, you say
Just concentrate on your tea, I say

Sweet ripples of vertigo, lilting in melody
Why some people cared about some things, I never knew
But frosting was always delicious.
And moths were uglier than butterflies. Almost always.

How does the universe work, you say
Just concentrate on your tea, I say

Jagged shadows in ambience
Liquid tears welling within a thousand eyes
Confusion rampant, since no one would explain
(just because there was no explanation.)

Damnit, how does the universe work, you say
Damnit, just concentrate on your tea, I say
We both cry with the thousands.


Steven S. Nam
Xv Dova

Time sifts like a snake in the grass
Regrets of decision, longing for a second chance
Lick of fire upon feverish skin
Digging fingernails into one’s scalp, digging and digging
Yet that droplet of relent never arrives.
So don’t scream.
Don’t cry.
So don’t regret.
And don’t lie.
Bitterness found in succumbing to bitterness
Life relished through accepting
Since life will always go on
As perennial as the stars.

no less

Zach Sussman

the world is not quite so cumbersome
as before. stars swim over a black sky
as evening spreads like a woman’s fan,
covering the rush of this busy hour.

i look at my wrist, skinny as a flute.
blue veins branch beneath the white skin.
the body is an instrument of the gods.
the heart pulses. cells push through.
it’s magic. like a rabbit pulled from a hat,
or a woman vanished in a curtained box.

at the center of this great spectacle
is silence. at the core,
like the apple eaten away
and only the eater’s grin left,
is silence:

a moment of hesitation
when evening sets in and makes itself
seen. no more

no less.

At it Again

Zach Sussman

God I hate this town
with it’s rows of skinny trees
and white storefronts
and shiny black cars.
God I hate this town
waiting for my Chinese food
as a kid with a fat red face
stares at me through the window.
Only the truly lost know this feeling.
My bones call it by name.
The afternoon is humming.
People are busy.
Someone rides by on a bicycle.
Someone reminds me to have a nice day,
obviously a case of mild retardation.
I can’t wait to get home
sprawl out on my roof in the hot sun
listening to Beethoven on the radio
and light cigarrettes until night sinks in
like an immense belly,
riddled with hair and stars.

Change Your Clothes
What am I supposed to wear
so that I fit in to
the right role

There is always a role
to be played with you
I’ve played so many roles

I’m getting quite good at it, actually

I’ve played so many roles
for the likes of you

I have dressed like a school marm
to impress your parents
so they don’t think we fuck

I have worn a business suit
and the skirt always seemed a little short
because I am so damned tall

but either way,
I would look professional
when playing that fucking female card
for all it is worth
and showing off my legs

I have gone to a different bar
every night
and I have dressed like a whore

I get the button-down shirt
buttoned always too low
I wear the ripped shorts

ripped shorts
ripped too short

Jesus, I’ve even worn simple dresses
with wide skirts
and those pricks think I’m sexy
wearing something like a wide skirt
which doesn’t show any of my curves
and they like me in it
brcause the skirt is wide enough
that they can crawl into it

and I don’t even want to know
what they want to do with me
in that position
while they are under that dress

you’re a fuck, you’re a flower
you have the mania, you have the power
you have the right, girl

all you have to do

is change your roles
and change your clothes

Sydney Anderson

Hasn’t Happened Yet
Jacob Best

I think there’s so much about me that’s ugly

and people can tell me otherwise
people can give me compliments

and the compliments are never enough
it’s never what i want to hear

it would be nice if the right someone
came along and told me everything
I needed to hear

but that hasn’t happened yet

people keep trying to make me feel better
they talk about the sunrises and the
stars in the sky and the babbling book
that is a couple of blocks from my house
but I don’t see those things
I never do
when I look right over my shoulder
to see the beauty in things
well, I never get to the beauty part

I never get there

so no, I don’t know what the answers are
and I don’t know how
to make things better for me
things haven’t gotten better yet
and I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do

I guess my only choice is to keep trying

Like My Motto


It is so easy to hope for things

It is easy, I guess, when you’ve got nothing
to hope for something

because it is nice to think
that there is someone out there for you
and you will have a happy ending

I know women who think that
it would be nice if there was a nice rich guy
that would come along
and sweep them off their feet
and then for the rest of their lives
they could east bon bons
and watch movies on their television
and they could decide

where their adopted child
will go for private school

I never said I understood that way
but I know that ideology exists

And at times I just get tired of fighting it
I figure that no one is listening to me and
I figure that this whole hope thing
is over, well,
Overly confusing


So I’m wondering that if
I’m getting tired of fighting it, well,
why am I even fighting any of this?
Everyone has been stepping all over me,
so why don’t I just get used to
the whole cycle

Stop fighting
Get used to it
These are the words
I have to keep telling myself
until they are like my motto

What We Are Supposed To Do

I played with Barbies for years
I made clothes for the female dolls
I never thought about the fact
that their toes were always poinged
and their breats were always hard and plastic

maybe those pointed feet said something
about how women are always
supposed to stand on their toes
to make their legs look better for men
to make it harder for them to walk

I mean, how are you supposed
to go around in your life
always walking around on your tows?

maybe those pointed feet said something
about how being short is a bad thing
and being taller
like a man
is a better thing

maybe those plastic breasts said something
about plastic surgery
and how women should be better
how men want women with bigger breasts
how they want something they can look at
and odjectify
something to make them novel
and something less than a man

maybe those plastic breasts said something
about how breasts should be perky
and never sag
like having breasts actually do, if you have them
I mean, Barbies never had bras
because they never needed them
because well, they had eternally perky plastic breasts

and plastic skin
and a plastic head that was hollow in side
and a plastic everything

I can take a Barbis doll now
and squeeze her head
and it just crunches like well,
a big piece of plastic
because well, there’s nothing in there

Aren’t girls not supposed to have brains anyway?

This was how we were trained
This is what we are supposed to do
and they still teach this

and I don’t know how to fight against
all these years of a slanted view
of how men view women
and how women view women

I can look at Barbies
and think that there is nothing inside of them
there is nothing real to them
and it is not the Barbie that bothers me
it is all of the ideas that come with it

Sydney Anderson

I Don’t Want To
Alexandria Rand

I don’t want to make a million bucks
I don’t want to worry about beauty first
I don’t want to do everything myself
I don’t want to let everyone do things for me
I don’t want to help the poor
I don’t want to give up what I have earned

But I don’t think I earned this
And I don’t think I’m being punished
For a deed I did not committ

Who am I supposed to apologize to
Who am I supposed to accountable
Who am I supposed to forgive

I don’t want to think about the bad stuff
but the bad stuff keeps coming back
To haunt me
And I don’t like it

I don’t want to live this way, and
I don’t want to keep paying for someone else’s sins

people tell me I’m being pessimistic
when I say I don’t want to
But at least it proves, at least,
That I am angry, and
That I live
And I do

Becoming a Woman

Mackenzie Silver

When I was young
I never had any lessons in how to become a woman
Maybe my girlfriends were supposed to tell me those things
But no one did

No one explained to me the science behind it all
No one explained to me the blood you have to deal with
Every month
No one explained to me the potential pain
Having it feel like there are little people inside you
Like little elves
Just kicking at the insides of you
No one explained to me that this is the beauty
Of being a woman

I thought women had enough to fight against to begin with

Now that I am looking back
That is what I think now
But I didn’t know that then

My health education classes talked about organs
That were drawn
(You wouldn’t want the kids to actually see this)
That were displayed on a slide projector

Ah, the beauties of modern science
We can make images of genetailia look huge on a screen
It’s a shame you can’t do that in real life
Ah, wello, you can always fantasize

The health education classes explained these details
To children that were not interested

When children think that something doesn’t relate to them
They don’t care
Well, neither do adults, come to think of it
But that is anotehr story for another time

These strangers were talking about something inside of us
They were talking about how it worked
No one was listening

One day I noticed
When I was sitting in my bedroom, reading a book
There was blood on my pants
So I guess the process had started for me

So I went downstairs
Told my mom I needed some pads
She said she would but some right away for me

That was all the talking we did about it
I mean, that is what I took a health class for, right?

I nerver got a talk about the birds and the bees
I nerver got a talk about how to stay away from boys
well, the boys weren’t calling me anyway

How, as a parent, do you start this
How do you start a talk like this
How do you know what to do when raising a child

Maybe you just hope that everything works out okay
Maybe you just hope that she knows what to do
Maybe you just hope that she becomes a woman

Without You Getting Something

Helena Wolfe

Is that a silly way to put it?
Maybe it is
And I am getting so poor at the thing
This writing down ideas thing
And I know that this is what I think
And feel and hope and know
And you would think I would be good at it

Was just going over notes today
And it made me think of you
It made me wonder how you were with her

I think you’re with her because she
Pays more of the rent bill that way

That’s just my theory

And I’m sure you would think of being here with me instead

But I think that now I am engaged

It would be harder for you
To get something from me

Maybe it would be harder
Without you getting something from me
I’m sure you have had to get used to that
Because I am sure I have had to get used to
Not getting what I want

This whole life thing
Really amounts to one big let-down after another sometimes

That’s just my theory
And I hope I haven’t let you down
Because I know you haven’t let me down
And if I have, well,
I hope I don’t continue to let you down

Smart Thing To Do

Mackenzie Silver

There are so many things I have wanted
So many things I have wanted from you

There are so many things
That have scared me
Are we being safe
Is this the smart thing to do

And maybe the smart thing to do
Is to just avoid you
And get it over with
And maybe the smart thing to do
Is to get my arm around your neck
And drag your sorry ass to me

Because I have wanted you at my lips
And I have wanted that for a while
And there is only so much I can do
To stop myself from staying away from you

And maybe the smart thing to do
Is to just sit here
Until you come to me

And when you get here

Well, it is MINE, now,
And that is when I let it all go
The way I want it to be

It is at moments like this
When I want just about everything from you
And I want to wrap my legs around you
And I want to push you into me
And I want to push your life into me

And for just a few moments
I want to feel nothing else
than this ME thing,
And this YOU thing,
And I keep thinking
about this US thing

And that “just a moment” thing
is lasting a lifetime

And for once, that does not scare me

And that makes me want
So much more with you
And so much more from you

And Hell, I do not know
How this poem ends
I guess it is called life
And I will not be able to finish this
Until my life is over

And Hell, I will not be writing then

You know

Just know that I want you
And that I will want you

And that can last for now
And that it will last a lifetime

We All Want That

Jacob Best

Not a lot of people think about
killing themselves
I mean, not a lot of people think of it
as a real option, because I mean, when
things get tough, when you get the bad
breaks, well, they get better
eventually they do

and no one wants to think about the bad stuff
and everyone wants to see the light
at the end of the tunnel
and no one wants to think that bad things
can happen to them

it’s like they think they are invincible or something

but sometimes things don’t work out that way

and no, you don’t want to think about the bad stuff
and you want to think about
the things that are supposed to
make life grand for you

we all want that, don’t we

driving car into ditch

Jacob Best

sometimes it just makes
more sense

i mean
do things make more sense
to everyone else
can people see
the sense in anything?

maybe I shouldn’t
turn the wheel of my car
maybe I should aim
for the side of the road

maybe it could be a
quick and painless death that way
maybe it could

Magnum Opus

Shannon Peppers

You wanted my magnum opus
Well, here it is, baby

You wanted to know that bad things
Can happen to me

Well, they can
Trust me, they can

I had saved enough money for a while,
& I was fine with that
& then I was told I should become a model
So I applied to the first place I saw an ad for

& they wanted me

& I know, I know, this sounds like
A good story, so far

Another model told me
Never work for a place
That asks for a fee to be paid to work for them

& this place asked for a fee
But I thought, I have the money saved,
This is no problem for me, so I signed up

Then I was there for a photo shoot one day
& they needed someone to start working
In their ordering department
What am I saying, that person
WOULD be their ordering department
& I said I could do it & I was hired on the spot

This is where this story gets more interesting,
I swear, baby
& this is where the screwing over begins

Because being on the inside
& seeing how things are run from the inside
& not from the model’s point of view
Well, I got to see how much of a scam this place really was

The building, all the offices & the runway
Were in one room with no walls
& the office was no larger than my living room
& the owner spent half of each day there
& the rest of the day working out
Or going to the country club or
Doing something else that none of his meager employees
Got the chance to do

& he kept that air conditioning blasted
Like my father always would
In our living room
When us kids watched television & we were on the couch
With blankets covering our feet & legs
Well, the boss would have the air conditioning on,
& he would have no regard for whether his employees
Were freezing or not

My theory is that he kept it cold
So that when he took the pornographic pictures
The women would have hard nipples

& while he was at it
He would pay his employees
Next to nothing
& he would care more about the cables that he very unsafely left
Strewn about in the main room

(I’m sure O.S.H.A. would say that was a safety hazard)
( ... I’m sure of it)

As I was saying,
he would care more about his camera equipment
These inanimate objects
Than the people that chose to work for him

He once told me that there was a six hundred dollar cable on the floor
& I wanted to tell that sorry bastard
That had the money to buy this whole fucking building
& if O.S.H.A. came in they could snag his ass for an unsafe working environment
& that if someone was late, paying them two dollars
An hour was illegal, & with the shit
That I’ve got on him
With all this evidence, I tell you
I could get our team of lawyers on him
& take this whole scam -
I mean, excuse for a company - away from him
I’m sure he doesn’t have any lawyers
covering his sorry ass
in case a problem like that would occur
& the thing is, I have those lawyers

I do

& I would hear my coworker Chantene tell me she wanted to quit
& I would hear Joanne tell me she was going to quit
& I found out that the hired & fired Juanita in the
Two-week span I was working there
& everyone there was unhappy working
& Chantene talked about the idea of
taking a magnum to his ass
She had thought of it,
of shooting him on more than one occasion

& I made a decision then

I decided to keep my mouth shut
Because he could still keep money away from me
as a model
Because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle
& he could still choose not to use my photographs in their magazine
But I figured, Hell, this pointless
scam of an
Insane job
Has to have some utility for me

In working here, I have lost my time
But I sure the fuck didn’t get
Enough money
Or any peace of mind

For it

So I decided to work enough to cover my ass -
I mean, my fee -
From becoming a model in the first place
That after two weeks
When my near full-time job
Couldn’t even cover my rent
I put in my two week notice
& I quit

Yeah, I quit
I think it’s my record for the shortest time I have had a job

I got to learn a ton of things while I was there
& I learned more in my last two weeks

They are the most unorganized, disorganized bunch
of clods I have ever worked for
Because everyone has to do things by the boss’
back-ass rules that make no sense

They had no database for their orders
Or their models
So they had to make xerox copies in triplicate of every order that came in
& file them in different places
One by date ordered,
One by name (& yes, By the first letter of their LAST NAME, no more So “MADISON” could be after “MULROONEY”))
& one in the back for their permanent filing

When they do interviews
They act like their video camera works
& it hasn’t for a while
So someone there acts like they are using the camera
So the models feel like they are being video taped

The owner asks his employees
To act cordial & civil
& tells them in the same breath
That they are not allowed to talk to anyone
trying to get a job there
& that employees should be taking care of the phone
When they have not even been told how to
Put people on hold
Or transfer calls
Or get people off of hold

I wonder how many people I have disconnected unintentionally that way

I wonder if there’s anything else I can get out of this place
I’ve become friends with the coworkers
& they can give me a copy
Of pictures I take as a model with them

I can’t believe I have to go through all of this...

& today is my last day of work
& I’m scheduled to do a modeling shoot
& I hope I get to have some of the picture back

Chantene said she’d e-mail them to me
Which is cool
I’ll even bring a floppy disk & a computer with me
Just to be sure

But I’ve had it with the
“You don’t get any break time” shit &
“Know how to do this”
Even though something has never been explained to you

I found out here that
If the boss takes the pictures
There is a greater chance of getting into the catalog
& if we women take the photographs
Well, the model has a very SMALL chance then

One of my coworkers also told me
That the boss asks most everyone to be a model

Doesn’t THAT do something for MY self-esteem

Well, you gotta make a profit SOMEHOW, I guess
Well, you gotta get the coin SOMEHOW, I guess
If from selling the clothing
The only profit you make is from
jacking up the shipping price

I’m counting down the minutes now
I keep thinking that it IS my last day
& I’ve got an hour & fifteen minutes left

When here, who are you supposed to answer to
& what the Hell are you supposed to be doing
& I only have one day left
& I’ll have to be putting on make-up
& curling my hair
As he is getting his glorious camera equipment
(You know, the shit that is more valuable than the people that work for him)
As he is getting his glorious camera equipment
All set up

So consider this my magnum opus,
Mother fucker
This is my change to say all the things that I couldn’t
All the things that I really think
That everyone really thinks here

&, you know,
This isn’t even beginning to scratch the fucking surface

& I hope on some level you know what I’m doing
& I hope you’re enjoying your shit sandwich
& I hope you don’t get too much stuck on your chin
& I hope you lick it up, baby, lick it up

So, go ahead
Go ahead & get all the glorious camera equipment
All set up

Well, set it up, baby
& take the glorious photographs
With your fucking digital camera
& make me look just fabulous
Because after today
That is my job
That is your job
& then you can never ask any more of me

Remember THAT, you son of a bitch

Against My Will

Janet Kuypers

There have been so many times
Where I have been raped

Not that some man
Some quote unquote man
Had physically held me down
Has forced himself inside me
Against my will

That way is just to obvious

Not the “someone tried
To beat me up” thing
Because that is old news

If you have done the research I have
If you have gone through what I have
If you have lived the life that I have

You know
I should be above this
I should be a feminist
With a capital fucking F

I guess with that in mind
I should not mind the cat calls
Or the whistles

Or the fact that the word “woman”
Is the word “man”
With a couple of letters tacked on

Like how “she is “he” with an “s”

Like we’re an extension of them

Or the fact that men
First look at me
By looking at my breats
And not my eyes

I should be aware
That a woman with power
Instills fear
And a woman with power in a company
Can still be demoted outside of the company
Where she can still be down-played

I can handle the jokes
About being a blond
Or being dumb
Or being both
I can hear the line
Always said insultingly
That we HAVE to be irrational
Because we are so damn emotional

I mean
How can you trust something
That bleeds for five days every month
And doesn’t die?

If they want to brush off
Everything that makes us strong
If they say we can not hold a job
We will just depend on you for money
And work on our OWN jobs
On our OWN time
And stash enough away for our OWN little nest-egg

And how much money
are you boys going to have
when it comes to the end of your family line?
How much of a life
are you boys going to have
when it comes to the end of your family line?
How much happiness?

* Note that “Feminist with a capital F” is from a poem by Joanna Marshall. Also note that “End of your family line” is is reference to “The End of The Family Line” by Steven Morrissey.

A Least That’s What I Hear

by Jacob Best

There are so many things
I’ve tried to do with my life
and there are so many things
that I’ve wanted
and there are so many things
that I just took care of myself

well, there are just so many things
and I don’t know if I can even
get close to any of one the things I want

I don’t know if I can touch them
I don’t know if I can make
everything better
I don’t know if something is

supposed to come along and save the day

There are any things
that have disappointed me in my life
and there are so many things
that have never happened
and that is the part that has
never worked out the
way I planned

things always have that effect on me,
you know

it’s easy to get disappointed
about things when you
think about them too much

you can just try to ignore all the bad stuff
or just try to change y
our whole way of thinking
or you can just try to be okay
with all the bad stuff happening
and maybe you can be okay
with just having a little
and just being alone

all I have to say
is that the last option there
isn’t an easy one
but it might save you at the
bottom line

at least that’s what I hear


Karl Koweski

there are people
like me everywhere

all day long
all I do
is complain

I hate everything

and I have an
opinion on every
subject that I’m
more than happy
to share with you
whether you want
to hear it or not

I don’t care

I hate you far more
than you could
possibly despise me
but I’ll pretend we
are friends until
you turn your back
when I’ll tell
everyone what a
total asshole
you are

you got a question?
ask me
I’ll give you an
answer even if I
don’t have one
want to know what
people are saying
about you behind
your back?
ask me
if I don’t know I’ll
make something up

try to ignore me
act like I don’t exist
you will never be
rid of me because
I have no where
else to go

Lay Away

Karl Koweski

it’s during one of those
weekly three-hour strolls
through Wal Mart with my
wufe that I begin pondering
the social ramifications
of having not fewer than
six Wal Marts within a
twenty mile radius of
my house trailer

truthfully, there isn’t
much I haven’t pondered
upon all the times I’ve
allowed myself to be
herded along endless
aisles of usaeless products
that Marie always seems
to believe she has
a use for

this time she wants to
but an abdominizer even
though our checking account
is currently in the negative

I’m almost catatonic at this
point having zombie-walked
this aisle for the ninth time
today knowing only that it
hasn’t changed since last week

“honey, I need an abdominizer”
her stomach protruding out
like a water barrel

“what about your exercycle bike?
what about your step machine?”

“those are so boring...
c’mon you can use it too”

the last thing I need is exercise
I’d look right at home in a
concentration camp and I don’t
mean that in a good way
“we have no money,” I remind her

“that’s okay, baby,
they have lay away”

name game

Karl Koweski

well, our child
is due soon
and names have
become a subject
of contention
between Marie
and I

she is pulling
for Joe Bob or
Billy Lee while
I prefer
Maximillian Achilles
Ezedial Zanzibar

I can’t say
I see a
in the

Cold Driving Rain

Laurence Overmire

It’s raining.
Cold driving rain.
Commuters rushing home from work
Home to hubby, wife and family
Spot and Cleo
And a fire on the stove.
Another day of brutal business
Accounts are squared
And errands run
No more phone calls
No more hassles
Watch some boob tube
Think of sex
Spare some change, sir
Spare some change, ma’am
I haven’t eaten for three days
You haven’t washed for three days either
Get a job, you dirty bum

I wonder how my stocks are doing
Shelter some money in a tax-free fund
Spare some change, sir
Spare some change, ma’am
Walk past quickly and ignore him
He just wants a shot of booze
Please sir
Spare some change, sir
And the rain keeps pouring down...

All is quiet on the street now
Two a.m. of a Tuesday night
All is quiet, all is peaceful
Save for the drizzling of the rain
Gently tapping
The lifeless body
Huddled on the pavement
Spare some change.

The Rules of Art (A pedagogical discourse)

Laurence Overmire

There Ain’t no Rules to life
That’s the point
Go which way you will
It doesn’t matter
Cause there ain’t no matter
To matter about
So don’t tell me
My poet-tree
Has gotta be the way you want it to be
If I speak with a lisp
And it don’t sound pretty
I’ll rama lama ding like Conway Twitty
And don’t tell me
About tired clee-shays
Sometimes, somewheres they speak

truer than you
It all depends on the voice, you see
I listen to life
I listen to me
And sometimes, by God, I listen to you
And it all comes together
In time and space all over the place
And there ain’t no right
And there ain’t no wrong
But if you listen real close
You might hear a

Sick Mommy

Laurence Overmire

Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.
Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.
She’s a sick mommy, mama
And I don’t know why.

Took me to the store and
Left me all alone
Locked me in the basement
With a slide trombone.

Sick Mommy, Sick Mommy
Don’t know why
She’s colder than a cooler
With those ice-pick eyes
Can’t seem to function
When the heart has died.

Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.
Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.

Had a little doggy that
I loved so much
Mommy didn’t like him
So they put him in a truck

Don’t know what happened
But my heart was broke
And no one saw me crying
Not a word was spoke.

She’s a sick mommy, mama
And I don’t know why.

Help your Mommy
Do the dishes
Help your Mommy
Make the bed
Your Mommy’s feeling poorly
That’s what my Daddy said.

And outside her door
In the middle of the night
You could hear my Mommy crying
And I don’t know why.

Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.
Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.

Summer’s come and gone
Winter’s in the air
And sick mommy mama
She just sits and stares.

I gotta do the dishes
I gotta make the bed
I gotta weed the garden
Put the garbage in the shed.

Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.
Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.

Sick Mommies, Sick Daddies
Sickly boys and girls
They’re all in the papers now
And on the nightly news
Little sick Billy
In the schools.

Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.
Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.

And I gotta clean the mirrors
Gotta look you in the eye
I’m a sick mommy, mama
And they don’t know why

Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.
Sick Mommy
Sick Mommy
Oh. Yeah.

Oh. Yeah.


I am imprisoned
I suffocate here
Pubescent fingers clutch
Round my throat
And stop the sound.

You thrust me forward
I don’t understand
The ordered world
I cannot cope
Let me find a corner
And hide.

The child must die
And allow me life
Or trip and fall
Indecisive folly
Afraid to challenge
Afraid to conquer.

But the child is the heart
Kindness without question
Natal innocence
The seed of being
No judgment
No anger
No vengeance to reap
Kill the child?

The man is the will
The core
The root
And cannot grow
In depleted soil
The aim
The ambition
Are driven through him
He must command
Or all will die.

Take hold
Lead then if you must
The prison is yours
Claim it.
Dare to leap first
And the child will follow
Without him
Your carcass is hollow.

Laurence Overmire

Love In The Computer Age

Cindy Sostchen

I once had a lover
and my life was complete
he made a quick exit
when I pressed delete....

Cindy Sostchen

... Wednesday’s child is full of woe
Thursday’s child has far to go ...
(Nursery Rhyme)

I slipped easily from a stranger’s tomb
after thrashing like thunder in her amniotic sea
but while I was born, this turbulent seed,
she slipped too easily from me

Wednesday’s child was full of woe
I lay in my crib like a misshapen stain
and raging tornadoes of blue wind in flame
encased me in pyramids of pain

So I’m here in my cradle
my prison cell earth
where I’m thrashing still
for the sin of my birth


Cindy Sostchen

Facing the allegato moon
with a goblet mouth of restless kisses
I am dreaming the breathless dusk
with a pillowed head of clocks & daggers
watching the silent guards of black caves
tracing midnight’s shorn and sheltered face
while ancient tombs of thoughts
screech like chalk across a sandpaper surface
on chopped chords of dissonance

The Occasional Jew

Cindy Duhe

I work just as hard as any man
given what I have
being as I am
I go through the motions
on holidays
as a good jew is supposed to.
Uncle Morty tells bad jokes
as they cut the
bris -
But each and every day that passes
I forget I am a jew.
At work, I trudge on during the days of atonement
for which I am never atoned
but, around family, I display
my ability to hock up phlegm
with the rest of them
People outside never see
the true me.
They never know,
but I do,
that I am a jew.
My nose is flamboyant
in the way it speaks to the world
but every time I look in the mirror
I see me and
not a jew.
What you’re raised isn’t always what
you stay
as you can see
with me.
Only when I want a reason to be
turned down by a date
made the butt of a joke
or pulled over by a
a cop on the street
am I a jew...
That’s why adversity crops up
and never flies away
because I am a jew
raised a jew
but am I?
If they don’t know, then
how could I?

Out And About

Cindy Duhe

Coming out is hard
for a black man
expected to be the quarterback
for a Georgia college
where the other players
wear tight fitting pants
stuffed with plums
to be eaten
by a lucky worm.
Coming out is hard
for a black man
making love to a woman
so that not a soul
will know
who he is.
Coming out is hard
for a black man
at church
with ministers at the pulpit
condemning his name
and face
for the sake
of being moral.
Coming out is hard
for a black man
to do
over a dinner of soul food
at Mammie Raven’s house
with more eyes staring at him
than the bowel of
black-eyed peas,
in the green dish on the side
next to the chicken
breasts and thighs.
It’s hard
but it’s done
and life goes on
regardless of what they all think.
All the black man knows
is that he is finally

Cindy Duhe

Black and blue
across the sky
you wished to fly away
but, grounded, here, forever be
whle my questions you will evade
with a simple sigh and clearing voice
when asked, “Maggie, what’s happened to you?”

Shrugs and tidings blindly fall
from the mouth that once did smile
but turned around so wretchedly
from a gay face to a frail frown
when he slapped you cheek to eye
as I blindly stood by
and asked, “Maggie, why didn’t you call?”

Ashamed and afraid, you said you were
but it was a blur
the things that happened
after I got the call,
not from you, but from the hospital
telling of the news
that your lesions, both black and blue
had bored right through your tears
landing grounded, beaming into my eyes
as I cry
and ask, “Maggie, why did you die?”

The answer was known all along
by us all
with no long
before his beating
and our silence
left our Magpie
blue and black
with the final slap
across the back
that made this camel fall.


Cindy Sostchen

(The title is taken from Dylan Thomas’ poem, “On My Craft and Sullen Art”)
(previously published in “Lucid Moon”)

Sculpted from chunks of metal and bits of raw bone, slow-baked in a kiln of
hyperbole and passion, the first wail of a poem as pure and greedy as a baby, and
I was there at the moment of conception. Soon it will suck its tiny red thumb and
stamp its glorious feet. Every poem is a finger, an oyster. A pot of strong
cappuccino, a bowl of maraschino cherries. I have taken mouthfuls of it, gorged
myself on free verse, immersed myself in a waterful of words, an orgy of
onomotopeia. Oh, I love poetry like Walt loved the flesh of men and Emily, her
garden. Like Blake loved the chimneys of London and Poe, the gutter. I will write a
poem as tall as the Sears Tower. I’ll sign it, seal it, lick it around the edges, mail
it to the world and everyone will know my soul. With quill to the grindstone, vodka
in the flask, and my own strain of melancholic joy, I will pull strands of image, like
colored scarves, out of my poetic pocket in the abracadabra of night. I will drive my
boot whip-fast into the heart of it. I will mend it like a just-sutured wound. Ah, to
pick up my Bic, my Parker, my scalpel and make the first incision - hoping it will
bite me back!

Affairs Of The Mind

Cindy Duhe

She cut up pills and mystery meat
so lovingly
so I could eat.
Waving through delirium’s call
with doctors, bedside
she stood strong and tall
when they told her the news
about me.
She acted like nothing was wrong
with brains and waxed floor
the smell of lysol on white walls
and eyes that glazed over her
as if she weren’t there.
Never, once, did she ask why
she would merely cry tears like pearls
when I would ask ‘who’ and ‘what’
gutting her like the trout I used to catch
on the muddy banks of the Mississippi
before it caught me
and reeled me into this terror.
Wretched darkness
in a place with nothing familiar
except for her
chipped, pink nail-polish.


Cindy Duhe

Stalks of lettuce crisply break
while shoes are broken in,

down the glamourous catwalk,
in the day in the life of a model.
Purple and Orange are the colours of the season
draped around the purple track marks
where the needles were inserted
in the day in the life of a model.
Rail thin
riding the subway
to another fitting
while wearing a size two
during this day in the life of a model.
People always envy
the beauty,
not seeing all that it takes to get there,
with fingers and amphetemines
to try to look normal
under all the make-up that is worn
in the day in the life of a model.
Modeling, to the rest of the world,
how to be,
while struggling to find it,

Sunny Girl’s
Juxtaposed Life

Cindy Duhe

I used to be given money
just for being me
cute and cuddley
a bright, sunny girl with the curls
who always looked upward on a cheerful day.

I used to be given kisses on the cheek
by people who loved me
almost as much as I loved myself
the very people who filled me with esteem
for all that I was
and gave me the confidence to go on.

I miss being hugged and pinched on the cheek
the other cheek
for being cute
and young
and full of love.

I wish, to God, that those days would return
and today would transform into yesterday
when people could give me money
and kisses
and pinch my rosy cheeks
without expecting something else
from me.

Row 3, Section C

Cindy Duhe

Glory glory hallelujah
got my period in the bathroom
sweet Jesus
regained my courage to be with a man
without fear of another conception.
gold on the
shimmering tops of the organ’s pipes
as we sing
in praise
of the lord whose eye contact
is evaded.
Wondering, the whole time
what they all look like without their robes,
a sin
burning and hot under this woolen robe
while containing this blood
of Christ, I sing
underwear stained-
glass windows radiating light
through images, idols,
to be worshipfully endured.
But one question of them all;
if the body be taken
what will be left in return?
That is known
and avoided like
the choir boy that stands in
row 3, section C
who Jesus watches over.

Answer Machine
Cindy Duhe

“Give me a call”
she said on the machine
but I couldn’t
not this time
since I was
being tied up by the man
whose call I had

You Would Know If You Were Here

Janet Kuypers

This is a toast to you
And I know full well that you can not hear me
And I know full well that you can not touch me
And I know full well that you can not remember me
But I still toast to you

Maybe it is because I remember too much
And maybe I want things to be different
And maybe you know the difference

Maybe you would know if you were here

I bought these wine glasses recently
After you died
Because they lookined like the glasses we
Almost got
When you came to visit me
And you took a day off of work

And no, you have never been around with me
To drink from this glass
With me
But I still think of it as ours

And I toasted to you with this glass

I said to you in this toast,
This is for all that almost happened
And this is for all the things that
Could have happened, and would have happened

And here is to all that you have taught me

Because I have been through a lot, you know
And I didn’t think you would add to my misery
Or my joy

And here I am
Thinking about it all

And I am mixing red wine with beer
Half and half
In one of these glasses
And I am all alone
In my apartment
Wondering what it would have been like
If you were here
And I had a different set of battles to fight

But now I’ve got a different set of battles to fight
And a different set of battles to win
And oddly enough, with all that we have gone through
You have helped me though this

I would never wish what happened to you
To happen to someone else
And you would tell me that
If you were here

You would be angry at me
because I would think that drinking through my problems
Would be the easiest solution
You would be angry at me
For my giving up my hope
And you would remind me
That I am a worthwhile human being
And that I am talented, and strong
And that I am a fighter

And it is fitting, in a way,
That I am toasting to you with a combination
Of cheap wine and cheaper beer
But it is the way that
you would live
If you were here

You would live every minute to the fullest
You would celebrate everything
And you would toast to it

I Dreamed Last Night

Robin Merrill

I dreamed last night I lived
A helicopter flew over
lowered a rope ladder to the ground
I climbed up and flew away
from my prison

I dreamed last night I lived
I dug a tunnel underground
I crawled for three days and three nights
to escape
from my cage

I dreamed last night I lived
I swam across the ocean
to a mansion on the other side
I swam for countless months
to be rescued
from my island

I sit now in my dusty armchair
In front of the evening news
In a small house
in Poland
I know not why I dreamt those dreams
why I believed
why I lived
I know not why I was a member
of the chosen few
I cannot, however, run from my fear
from my guilt
from my shame
I will never be free
from my hell

I dreamed last night I lived

The Flute*

Amy Lyn Miller

A song with heavy bated breath
that speaks of fire, emotion and desire.
Tender fingers caressing the body,
opening and closing gaping holes.
An airy kiss of symphonic life
evokes a melody of musical magic.
A passionate melding
of harmonic souls.

*First Published by Amorphous Estrella

The Love Affair

Amy Lyn Miller

Amidst the ambiance of the wild,
she lays herself upon the bench
made of slate gray and cold.

Beneath a flowering willow tree,
her pillow is plush, soft and green,
a velvety moss to cushion her head.

The mist of an adjacent stream
blankets all that happens to be in the path,
like the dew of a blustery autumn morn.

She breathes in the wind,
their separate breaths mixing as one,
natural ingredients of her soul.

She exhales the fragrance
by which the ferns of the forest survive,
without a ray of sun nearby

Her body has warmed to a feverish degree
and she glows with brilliance,
as if an angel had her embraced.

Waltzing away, she whistles
the immortal love song that echoes within.

The Grande Finale

Amy Lyn Miller

A blizzard of thoughts, questions, decisions.
Trying to ignore the excruciating truths.
I, the gracious host to the deadly thing.
In the month of March, the season of rebirth,
nature saps my life to give to the wild.
My essence is a donation, tax exempt.
For weeks I’ve thought of plans to make
to help the surviving, to arrange the wake.
With nothing done, thinking hurts.
Each new idea nourishing the virus.
It continues to grow in size, grow in strength.
I am a candle,
my wick has been lit.
People tiptoeing words,
undisturbing the flame.
The end is near;
the end I



Rougher the sea than last we ran
here laughing on the cliffs,
a spring breeze in our hair;
Less kind the sky than last we kissed
there, bluebells surrounding
a passion brought to bear;
Sweet memory, the wings of a
friendly gull soaring our dreams,
love’s rhythm to fulfil;
Such heat to embrace your body
and bold! In the vaults of eternity
our lives grown cold;
Salty now, the hair across my
face thinned like the heather
at our special place;
Though huddled in a raincoat, I easily
recall the glad heart
that made me thrall;
Gulls squeal! No melody but a sure
grace, whirling against storm clouds
like a pattern of lace
on an altar cloth, would
have smothered us both


Jennifer Townsend

The night is still but there is no silence.
It hasn’t stopped raining for fourteen days
and nothing speaks to calm it.

In a waking dream there are two people standing.
They are stretching into each other.
Their hands are two hands and there is
no end to the rain beading on them.

It is senseless to stare at these hands;
they are as foreign as the monn falling on bodies.

The two almost break to be near one another
and puddles grow deep around their still feet.

They speak in half-whispers, closely into ears.
In more than one hour nothing is said.
His body will remain foreign
in this nocturnal stillness to near silence.
The sky is still dreaming.
They are not yet naked.


Jennifer Townsend

In the morning I will eat raspberries and honey
and listen to me neighbors yelling in the streets.

A man talks of snow, but I see out the window the blue sky.
In January, even simple things stop making sense.

No one would have told me what this month would become.
Evasiveness is as easy as pouring water.

Eight Month Romance

Jennifer Townsend

Love seeps in, both languid and elaborate,
making my anxiety shine,
my simple language stop.
It is bright like rain,
is beauth and life.
It tells me a story, and
makes whispers sing.

When our time comes,
(love laying down)
leave me, please, with reason.

Reason doesn’t seep.
It takes me quickly,
and forgetsd to be sublime.
It leaves me in wintertime,
craving truth, needing honest quiet.

Should romance take you soon, make me still.
Remind me that I need water.
I always dream the sea.


Marathon Dancing

By Paul Perry

Hazel Axelrod was sitting on a yellow plastic sofa in the corner of the big, brightly-lit room, chewing her Dentyne gum and feeling bored, when she saw her daughter Tildy come bouncing across the room. Hazel sighed, watching her. Why does she bounce like that? she wondered, remembering the Tildy of forty years ago, a tall, thin teenager with stringy blond hair, getting off the school bus and coming across the lawn, bouncing just as she was bouncing now.
“Mom, you’re not circulating! This is a mixer, for God’s sake.” Tildy flopped down on the sofa, turned her purple-framed spectacles toward Hazel. “There’s some very nice people here, Mom. I already talked to a couple of nice men.” She leaned toward her mother, giving her a whiff of her gardenia-scented cologne. Hazel met her gaze, or tried to-the spectacles were tinted a dark pink-and said, “I told you, Tildy, I’m not here looking for a man. You might be but I’m fine just like I am.”
Tildy sighed. “Dad’s been gone almost four years now, Mom. You have to be a little lonely.”
“A little bit, yeah,” Hazel said, shrugging, “but I got my cats, my garden, my movies.”
“You’ve got to stop watching those old movies, Mom. Lillian Gish, for God’s sake. John Barrymore. Buster Keaton.” Tildy shook her head. “They’re all dead, Mom.”
Hazel raised her chin, gave her daughter a hard stare. “They’ll live as long as people watch their movies, Mathilda. I watch Lilliam Gish and I laugh when she laughs, I cry when she cries. These actresses today, they’re nothing but big busts and bigger bottoms. I don’t-”
“Mom!” Tildy bent forward, said in a whisper, “I wish you wouldn’t say things like that. Someone might hear you.”
Hazel shrugged, glanced around the room. “So what? All I see is a bunch of old fogeys. I’ve never seen so many baldheaded men and blue haired women in my life. They should all be home taking their medication.”
Tildy gave Hazel that look, lips pursed, one eyebrow lifted, a look that Hazel was seeing all too often these days. “Maybe I need to remind you that you’re seventy-one, Mom, and you could use a little tint yourself.”
“Listen, my hair’s been white since I was in my fifties and it’s going to stay that way.”
“Well,” Tildy said, “these people aren’t all old, Mom. I just talked to a nice man in his early fifties.” Tildy touched her perm, smoothed a couple of wayward gray-blond hairs. “He invited me to have some punch with him.”
“So go have punch with him,” Hazel said. Then she reached out and took her daughter’s hand. “But no duds, hon. Okay? You’ve had your share of duds.”
Tildy sighed. “Listen, I’ve just had a lot of bad luck, Mom.”
Hazel, who had heard that song before, said, “And two bad marriages and a couple of bad almost-marriages. Just be careful, Tildy.” She patted her daughter’s hand then released it.
“Okay, Mom. But please circulate a bit, okay? I can’t enjoy myself, seeing you sitting over here like a bump on a log.” Then she hurried away, headed for a heavyset gray-haired man who was standing in a corner, looking uncomfortable. She walked staight up to the man and said, “Hi. I’m ready for that punch.”
The man nodded, smiled. “Oh, yeah. Okay. Listen, you stay right here. I’ll go get it.”
When he came back with two glasses of lime punch, Tildy thanked him, then followed him to two orange plastic chairs. ‘So,” he said, after they were seated, “you married, widowed, divorced, what?”
Tildy was pleased by his directness and she also liked his eyes, which were a deep blue, although his face was ruddy, just a little bit puffy. She paused before answering his question, although she had been asked it before and always answered it the same way. “Divorced. Twice.” She shrugged. “I’ve had bad luck with men.”
“Well,” the man said, “I just had bad luck once, but once was enough.” He looked at Tildy and asked, “So did you get a lot of money out of these bad luck cases of yours?”
“Nope. Actually finding work was one of their problems.”
“Huh. Both of them?”
Tildy sighed. “Yep.” Then she squared her shoulders. “But I do okay on my own. I’m manager of a temp office.”
The man nodded, leaned closer. “Well, my ex took me for just about everything I had. We’ve got two kids; she got sole custody plus child support.” He frowned, said through taut lips, “She’s a real bloodsucker, that’s what she is.” Then he grinned. “But I quit my job before the divorce hearing; since I was broke and out of a job, the judge didn’t give her much child support.”
Tildy nodded, smiling at him.
Hazel watched Tildy approach the man standing in the corner, wondering what it was about big, hulking men that attracted her daughter, then she sighed, stood, and wandered over to a table that bore a large punch bowl containing a vile-looking greenish-yellow liquid and a scattering of paper plates bearing an assortment of cookies. She poured herself a cup of punch, took a taste, put the cup down, then reached in her pocket for a fresh piece of Dentyne.
“Pretty good punch, huh?” Hazel smelled him before she looked at him: Old Spice, applied liberally, and something else, stale sweat maybe. She turned and found herself looking at a wig. It was orange-red, looked like it had been used to dust the furniture, and it was perched slightly askew on a large head that was fringed on the sides with skimpy gray hairs. Hazel thought to herself, That is without a doubt the ugliest wig I ever saw in my life. She started to tell him that but pressed her lips together, managed-with considerable effort-to hold back the words. “The punch is lousy,” she said instead, sticking the Dentyn in her mouth.
“Ah-hah,” the man said. “Gum.”
Uh-oh, Hazel thought, I’ve got a genius on my hands. “Yep,” she said. “Gum.” He was shorter by several inches than Hazel’s erect five-ten, had a round, ruddy face, a fat nose, watery blue eyes and very large, almost perfectly white teeth. Dentures, Hazel thought. Cheapies at that.
“So,” the man said heartily, “I haven’t seen you at any of our little gatherings before.” He showed her more of the dentures. “Are you new in town, little girl?” He apparently thought he had just said something funny; he guffawed, grabbing Hazel by the arm in the process. When he finally stopped laughing, he held on to Hazel’s arm.
“Nope,” Hazel said, stepping back and out of his grip, giving him a closer look. Why, she wondered, would anybody wear white shoes and black dress pants with a purple and yellow Hawaiian shirt? Again, she started to say something, managed to say instead, “I’m here with my daughter. This was her idea.”
The man nodded, moved close, asked in a low voice, “So how’s your health? You look pretty good. You got a good health plan?”
Hazel gave him a long look. “I’m fine.”
The man grinned. “Me too. You’d never know I had major surgery just fifteen months ago, huh?”
“I guess not,” Hazel said.
“Prostate,” he said, almost whispering. “I went all the way to Nashville to get it done. There’s a surgeon there that does it so that you don’t have any problems afterward.”
Hazel gave him a quizzical look, glanced around to see if she saw Tildy.
“What that means,” the man said, moving so close she could feel the moistness of his breath-Yep, sure enough, Polident-and grasping her arm again. “That means that I’m still functional. You know what that means?”
Hazel reached down and removed his hand. “I guess it means you don’t pee on yourself.” She started to walk away then turned back to face him. “Listen,” she said, “I’m not going to say anything about your strange taste in clothes, but I’ve got to tell you, chum, that is the godawful ugliest wig I ever saw in my life.”
She was back on the sofa a few minutes later, thinking about making a hasty exit, leave Tildy there with her bear-like friend, when Tildy herself came bouncing over, plopped down beside her mother. “Well,” she said, “he had to leave, but he really seemed very nice. Right now though,” she said, looking over her shoulder, “I’m trying to escape some weird old geezer, looks to be a hundred years old, roaming around the room talking everybody’s ear off.” Then she groaned. “And speak of the devil and up he jumps.”
“Lookie, lookie, lookie,” the old man sang out, bending over in front of them, “here comes cookie.” Then he stared at Hazel, said, “Oh, you beautiful doll, you great big beautiful doll. Can I sit down here and kind of inhale your charms for awhile?” He didn’t even look at Tildy.
Hazel leaned back, looked him up and down. Red beret with feathery white hair streaming out behind it. Red jacket over red T-shirt-she could make out the words “I’m not old, I just had a bad night”-and, of course, red pants. His face was long and lean with a large, bony nose and a chin to match, wild-looking gray eyes topped by bushy silver-gray eyebrows. His back was bent and he was thin to the point of emaciation but he gave the impression of being chock-full of pent-up energy. After glancing once toward the door, Hazel shrugged. The old man dropped into a chair across from the two of them, immediately bent forward. “Sisters, huh?”
Hazel laughed and Tildy gasped, got up and bounced across to the other side of the room.
“The name’s Ingemar ‘Iron Legs’ Abramovich,” the old man said. “You might have heard of me. Southwest Marathon Dance Champion for three years running, nineteen thirty-one through thirty three, lost in thirty-four to a French-Canadian named Pierre Leconte who had these steel bars strapped to his legs, kept him upright for five hundred and forty-three hours and seventeen minutes, just one hour and eleven minutes over my record established in thirty-two at the Golden Globe Ballroom in downtown Houston. I had this assistant that dropped slivers of ice-none of these fancy ice cubes in those days-dropped these long slivers of ice chopped right off a big fifty pound block down the back of my shirt and once in awhile down the back of my pants, dropped that ice in there when I started to doze and knees started to wobble. I used to do that kind of thing but never, not once, did I use anything mechanical like steel bars. Claimed a foul but the National Marathon Dance Committee turned me down. Been trying to get that championship back ever since thirty-three and haven’t even thought about giving up. I been thinking about going to some place like Vegas or Atlantic City, see if I can get some interest stirred up in a little five-day bout, figure that if I can get enough dancers to make a legitimate contest out of it, I can win the thing and then just keep on dancing and maybe, just maybe, win the championship back.” He leaned over and grinned and Hazel thought, Uh-huh, thought so. No teeth.
“Listen,” he said, his gray eyes bright and intense, “do you happen to dance?”
Hazal smiled a faint smile. “I used to. Too old now for that kind of stuff.”
The old man gave her the once-over. “Say, you’re not nearly as old as I am, and I can dance up a storm.”
“And just how old are you?” Hazel waited for the big lie.
The old man frowned. “Well, I stopped counting after I hit eighty but that was some time ago. Anyway, age is all in the mind. In my mind, see, I’m younger than I was ten years ago, maybe even twenty or thirty years ago.”
Hazel had a thought, bent toward him. “Listen, did you used to go see Lillian Gish in the movies when she was young?”
“Did I see Lillian Gish in the movies? Listen, I saw Lillian Gish herself, in person. I was doing a dance marathon in Los Angeles, about nineteen twenty-nine-nope, it was before the Crash-about nineteen twenty-eight, and I went out to the lot where they was making movies, see if I could get some work as an extra, crowd scene maybe. Well, I didn’t get any work but I saw Lillian, saw her standing right there in front of the camera.”
“Listen,” Hazel asked, “was she as beautiful as she is in the movies?”
The old man was quiet for a moment, staring at Hazel, until finally he said in a hushed voice, “More beautiful. I fell in love with her right there on the spot. Fell head-over-heels in love with her.”
Hazel couldn’t speak for a moment, sat there thinking about what he had said, then she asked him, “Listen, do you ever go see any of her movies?”
Later on, walking down the street, Tildy told her mother that the man she had met earlier seemed very nice, had had marriage problems just like she had. “He asked me to go to dinner sometime, said he’d give me a call.” Then Hazel told Tildy that she was going to the theater that showed nothing but old movies, going with Mr. Ingemar Abramovich. “And after the movie,” she said, striding along, “we might even go dancing.”
Tildy stopped and gaped at her. “You’ve got to be kidding, Mom. He’s old as the hills, got to be late eighties, maybe even ninety.”
Hazel kept walking, waited for Tildy to catch up with her, then turned to her and said, “Yep, he’s old all right. But the thing is, he don’t know that.”
Tildy sighed. “Well,” she said, “to each his own.”
“You got that right,” said Hazel.

Lying Above Me

by RoseMarie London

Agoraphobia. Mine is the distaste of seeing the reflection of myself through friends. So I have few friends. Very few friends. Aric and I used to rationalize this affliction as a need to control our environment. But there again, it was just a matter of not liking the glare of what we were. Were, because, well, he’s dead now. It’s just me and my distorted self-image missing the way the two fun house mirrors righted our reflections when we faced one another.
We sat in his living room gazing over York, looking through a window that exposed a man and a woman having a candlelight dinner. It was only pizza, but there was candlelight and food filled mouths betraying good humor. Aric disliked candlelight. The way it shape shifted bothered his eyes. We always sat in the dark with a wisp of white smoke lingering between us while at other tables couples glowed.
Aric dimmed the lights, but the stark blue and gray of the muted TV disallowed the mood. We looked at one another in the static dark until he asked, “Want to order a pizza?”
I shrugged, “Sure.” Up again came the lights so that he could locate the number. I pushed passed him into the kitchen and made myself a drink. Up in the cupboard on the top shelf I spotted a champagne flute that was mine. It had been Christmas Eve and I’d tramped through the marble lobby in garters, rouged lips and a sloshing glass of celebration in my hand. Six months later it was deep into its solitary life high on a dusty, stagnant pedestal. I stood there with my hand still on the polished door contemplating its place and wondering too how Aric being just 5’ 7” had to make a concerted effort to find this mismatched glass a home.
I think that it was after spotting the glass that I decided-start leaving things in his apartment; a bottle of shampoo to begin. I was very aware of the obvious tactic: forgetfulness. I was to leave one morning after he, he had a breakfast meeting and we had arranged before going to sleep that the next day I would just lock the door behind me. It was planned that he would not wake me, but his indecisiveness over wardrobe proved too strong a force and I was asked to open my eyes and review. In his defense I must say that to make up for this he did start a pot of coffee. But I made the bed. Then I rumpled itagain, testing the comfort level to being thoughtless-did it fit well? No. Frustrated by good breeding, I straightened and pulled the comforter into what I imagined perfect hospital corners to be, all the while glancing over my shoulder at the gold V05 bottle on the edge of the tub. Through a sheer plastic corner of the curtain it mocked me and my own transparency. All he said the next time we spoke was, “At this rate, it will take you a very long time to move in.”
Aric had a high profile job. He enjoyed the spot light as much as he too suffered his heavy cross. It is a terrible thing to be in constant contradiction. There’s always a nagging need to question the reality of feelings and responses to things. It was a mounting stealth-like pain to sit around flipping through Manhattan public access cable channels because it was exactly what you wanted to do when at the same time you were expected tobe out and about simply because why wouldn’t you be. So, he would stay at home in a comfortable chair with a stiff drink or maybe in a rumpled bed with some Chubby Hubby and a stiff drink, or maybe he’d be at the dining room table working on the model of the Space Shuttle-started while recuperating from a bad case of influenza-with a stiff drink. All the while his attention was diverted and his sanctuary diminished by the gnawing feeling he was missing something-even though that something was not something he’d want to be a part of anyway.
Oftentimes I’d stand with him-huddled together at a trendy bar projecting this air of confidence with a line of complimentary drinks sent over by members of his adoring public set before us-but huddled nevertheless and busy checking our wrists for the expiration of enough time spent. And when we scurried out to the held open door of our pumpkin coach, we’d left those drinks half drunk and a tab that in our angst we’d forgotten to close out.
Then the next day I’d nervously wait for the phone to start ringing; reports of who saw/heard what/where. Showered with half truths and distortions of honest actions Aric would face the remainder of the day a drowned rat declaring like a solitary king to never cross the moat again.
Of course it was all about control. One particularly mischievous night I participated in his nightmare. Easily recognizable he’d been spotted in a nightclub not too far from where I myself was perched enjoying cocktails of my own. I learned of this from the vacant chatter of the bar hopping. I wedged myself up to the bar and asked to use the phone. Not sure what I’d say once I got him, and a little worried about the fact he was probably not alone-my point wasn’t a case of infidelity-I had him paged. Waiting, I reveled in the cadence of his name called out over the familiar din and the subsequent jolt at his hearing it announced. I warned him that he was never out of sight. I ruined his evening and after the initial 30-second rush of having had a crystal ball, my fun was over too. I sipped the rest of my drink while considering the punishment to come.

Aric was hiding. The apartment where I’d left my shampoo had acquired a mystery leak which erupted in a warp in the hard wood the length of the living room. He was running away from having to choose whether or not to move. Hiding from the speed bump which he considered a line in the sand challenging him to make a decision.
“I’m up in the Pierre,” said his invitation. A message left on my answering machine. When I arrived I was told that he had been moved to Presidential Suite C. I rode the private elevator and surprised a chamber maid idly dusting the fixtures illuminating some art in the corridor. Needing to wheel it slightly out of my way I slipped past her cart. She followed me down the quiet hall. “You need some help, miss?”
“No,” I replied, looking down to consult the memo page on which I’d scribbled the room number. “I think this is it.” I finished looking up again at the brass plate across the double doors.
“Miss, I don’t think there’s anyone in those rooms.” she warned.
“Oh, but I’m sure this one’s it.” At this, one side of the entrance moved and Aric stood just inside, barefooted, bare-chested, dressed in slouchy black fleece pants with a cord drawn tightly at the waist. A fog of his spice curled its illusive fingers around and lured me in. Without casting out another word I closed the door and Aric followed the taut telephone cord back into the bedroom. One of them.
I put down my coat and showed myself around not insisting I hear his conversation. The diningroom was stately and there were beyond that two more bedrooms with an adjoining bath and what was probably a balcony behind drapery that he had kept tightly drawn. Every table light was on. And the flowers on the credenza in the foyer-an arrangement full of sprigs of twisted twigs and Eucalyptus cuttings-were not the freshest I’d seen.
There were the usual things-a muted television flashing, signs he’d been drinking. But there was also the explosion of clothing strewn over unlikely furniture and across the floor. After some time I followed the steady murmur of his voice to a tangle of bed linen, two near empty sacks of Mrs. Field’s cookies and an almost dry bottle of tequila. Clearly, I’d been asked to share a mood.
“No more cookies?” I asked pointing as he hung up the phone.
“You like?” He said instead, motioning around, following the flow of his arms to one of the suite’s three couches. “The cable wasn’t working in the other room. I complained, and they moved me in here. But, you found me.”
“I found you.”
“Ever see this? This is the third time today I’m watching it.”
I took a look at what was on the screen and tried to find something familiar in the grainy black and white. I took too long and Aric shouted “You know-of all the gin joints in all the world, she had to walk in to mine . . . .”
“You could shut it off.”
“Nah. Come sit down with me.”

The bedroom drapes too tightly met and the electric clock beside the bed had been unplugged.
I don’t know what time we began to sleep nor the time when we awoke. We used both bathrooms for our ablutions just because we could. And when I idly asked, rubbing at my head with one of those great big, fluffy hotel towels what he thought it was like outside. He suggested I call the concierge if I so badly wanted to know. When I told him I’d think about it, then I spotted a note on the hotel’s stately letter head peeking under the doors.

Hotel management would like to thank all our fine guests for their cooperation during last night’s fire emergency. We are happy to state that the evacuation process was one of calm and order and that the Hotel has not sustained any structural damage. We hope that you enjoy the conclusion of your stay with us.

“Hey, look at this!”
“What?!” Aric answered flatly not at all inspired by the new day.
“Apparently there was some sort of fire here last night.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Here, see for yourself.”
He took the page from me. “I didn’t hear anything-did you hear anything?!”
“Not even your snoring.” I told him standing with my arms protectively crossed while my head wobbled in the heavy towel turban. “That’s somewhat disturbing, don’t you agree?”
“Yeah, I should get the night for free, then,” He answered, reaching for the phone.
I stood there weighing the futility-balancing the thoughts in my hands-juggling the effectiveness of my voicing despair, outrage, hysterical laughter even-and settled on this instead: “Might as well, order us some breakfast while you’re on.”

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

By Paul Perry

Buster Raines entered the Tip Top Cafe and looked across to where Hetta Simpkins was standing behind the counter, steaming coffee urn in her hand, a broad smile on her face. He stood there for a moment, rubbing at his bristly gray mustache, muttering to himself, “Uh-oh. What’s she up to now?” He walked straight across to settle his lanky frame onto the same stool that he had been occupying every morning for more than two years now, coming in every day, seven days a week, promptly at nine a.m.. He took off his beat-up Stetson, revealing a line of pale skin above the seamed and sun-browned skin of his face, then leaned forward on his elbows and watched Hetta pour hot black coffee into an extra-large cup. He bent over the cup and inhaled deeply, said, as he did every morning, “Best damn coffee in south Texas,” then he looked up at Hetta, a look of unease on his face. “I’ve seen that grin before, Hetta, and it’s always meant some kind of mischief on your part.”
Hetta propped her ample hips against the back counter, crossed her arms over a more-than-ample bosom, and said to Buster, “I got something I want you to do for me, hon.”
Buster looked at her, blew air through pursed lips, shook his head. “Uh-oh. I thought so. What are you up to, Hetta?” He leaned back and watched her walk over to the counter where the cook put out the plates of food he’d prepared in the kitchen. She came back carrying a thick stack of pancakes and a plate of link sausages, set them down in front of Buster. “I just want you to meet somebody, Buster. Esther’s been gone, what, more than two years now? You got to be lonely out there in that big old house by yourself.”
Buster was shaking his head as he poured syrup over the pancakes, began cutting them up in bite-size chunks. “So you’ve stopped hinting and started doing, huh, Hetta? Listen, girl, I’m fine just like I am. I got my dogs, I got my garden, I got books to read, TV shows to watch. I still do a little horse trading to keep me busy.” He put a forkful of pancakes into his mouth, chewed, then swallowed. He sipped some coffee, looked up at Hetta, who was frowning down at him, scratching her head with a pencil. Hetta had had beautful blond hair as a girl but as she got older, her hair had become skimpier, until finally she went into Dallas and bought a blond wig that fit her head like a cap of tight curls. It didn’t really look bad on her, not unless you looked real close, but it constantly made her head itch so she was always shoving her pencil underneath it to scratch. She finished scratching and sighed. “It’s just not natural for a man to live like you do, Buster. You’ve got to yearn for some company now and then.” She leaned forward, placed her forearms on the counter next to Buster, watched him put one of the link sausages in his mouth. “Listen, you remember Leda Hoskins? She was behind us in high school, probably a freshman when you were a senior and I was a junior. Real cute girl, had reddish-brown hair, freckles, used to wear those poodle skirts that were popular back then.” She straightened up, a serious expression on her face. “Well, she’s back here in Selden, working for George Hill in his real estate office. She moved to Dallas after she graduated high school, married a fellow there, I don’t know what he did for a living, but they got divorced a few years back and she never remarried but stayed there in Dallas. She decided to move back here because she was fed up with the city life, or so she told me.”
Buster finished up his pancakes and sausage, drank down the rest of his coffee. He didn’t say anything, just wiped his mouth with a napkin and stood up.
Hetta let out a sigh of exasperation. “You’re going to run, huh? You usually have a second cup of coffee.”
Buster donned his Stetson then shook his head. “I’m just not interested, Hetta. I’m doing just fine.”
“I tell you what,” Hetta said, looking a bit desperate now. “All you got to do is take her out to dinner, some nice place like the Hunter’s Inn out on highway 90.” Then she grinned, turning her double chin into a triple. “I tell you what I’ll do. If you two don’t hit it off, Buster, I’ll treat you to breakfast for a month. What do you say?”
Buster frowned, set his Stetson low over his forehead. “A month?”
“Yep. One month. That’s how sure I am that you two are just right for each other.”
Buster shrugged, nodded. “You got yourself a deal.”

The Hunter’s Inn was a dimly lit, good sized room with a huge fireplace-although it didn’t contain a fire-surrounded by heavy oaken tables and chairs and, along the two outer walls, large booths padded in imitation brown leather. Since the dining
room was almost deserted, Buster and Leda Hopkins had their choice of seating and they opted for a booth in the corner farthest from the door. There were candles in red globes glowing on every table, sending out a faint floral scent. Buster looked Leda Hopkins over in the rosy glow of the candle and decided that she looked younger than he had expected. She had a nice figure, wore a beige blouse and ankle-length black skirt that flattered that figure, had silver-gray hair worn in a springy bob, had a smooth-skinned, oval face with just a shade too much makeup. She looked so good, in fact, that Buster found himself sucking in his gut and wishing he’d worn something better than his tan sports jacket and best jeans, as well as his sweat-stained Stetson, which he took off as soon as they got through the door.
Leda smiled at him and said, “You order. You men are better at that than us women.”
Buster ordered steak and baked potato for each of them, the house specialty, with corn on the cob on the side. Leda ate her corn on the cob by using her knife to cut off a few kernels of corn at a time then nibbling at them, taking tiny bites. Buster ate his the way he always had, holding each end of the corn and chomping down, getting butter on his mustache, on his chin, and a few dribbles down his hands and onto the white table cloth. Leda smiled at him. “I just love to see a man eat,” she said.
Buster ordered beer for himself-no glass; he said he liked to drink it right out of the bottle-and a Perrier for Leda, at her request. After he’d eaten all of his steak and half of Leda’s-she apologized, saying she wasn’t much of an eater-he leaned back, couldn’t hold back a slight burp, then lit up a cigar. After lighting up, he asked Leda if she minded, and she said, “Not at all. I always thought smoking cigars was a manly thing to do.”
As Buster puffed away, leaning back and pushing his belt down to allow more room for his overfull belly, Leda sipped at her Perrier and asked a few questions.
“So you don’t remember me?” she asked.
“Nope,” Buster said. “Although I’ve got to say you sure turned out pretty, so I guess you weren’t as pretty then or I would probably have noticed you.”
“Well, I sure remember you,” she said, smiling at him through the reddish glow cast by the candle. “You were sure good-looking and,” she added, her eyes downcast, “you still are.” Then her expression changed, became serious, somber. “I was sorry to hear you’d lost your wife. How long has it been now?”
“Over two years,” Buster said, looking away from her.
“And you’ve never...never considered marrying again?”
“Nope. My dog is all the company I need.”
“And Hetta says you’re retired. Are you able to get along all right?”
Buster nodded, puffed hard on the big cigar. “Well, I’m more like semi-retired. But I’m getting along fine. I own my house and some land and I saved up enough to hold me until I start getting Social Security. How about you? You make enough working for George Hill?”
Leda smiled faintly. “Well, that’s just something to keep me busy.” She looked up at Buster, her eyes bright. “Actually, I got enough on Horace-he’s my ex-husband-to make him settle for a good piece of money. I got the house-sold it for over two-hundred thousand-the car, all the furniture, and just about everything we had in the bank. I left him and his little blond bitch just about enough to eat regular on.” Then she smiled wider, showing her teeth. “That is, as long as they stick to Big Macs and fries.” She laughed out loud, turned up her glass and finished her Perrier, then looked over at Buster. “Well, what now?” Then she looked down at her hands. “Maybe you’d like to see the house I bought. I made a real good deal.” Then she looked up into Buster’s eyes. “I’m a real good business woman, but otherwise I’m a pushover.”
There had been a toothpick stuck in the steak, had a little piece of lacy cellophane stuck to the end of it, and Buster picked up this toothpick and stuck it in his mouth, dislodged a piece of steak from between two molars, then left the toothpick there in his mouth, saying around it, “Well, sure. I’d like to see your place. But first maybe I better tell you something.”
When Buster walked into the Tip Top the next morning, he looked over at Hetta, saw the expression on her face, squared his shoulders and prepared for the onslaught. “Pour your own coffee,” she said to begin with, setting the coffee urn beside his cup. Then she propped her hips against the back counter and glared at him.
Buster sipped from his cup. “She told you, huh?”
“Of course she did, and she’s pretty pissed at me, Buster. I built you up as something special and then”
“Turn out to be something pretty lousy, huh?”
Hetta nodded, started to say something then went over to get Buster’s pancakes and link sausage. “You don’t win the bet, Buster. No free breakfasts for you. You two could have hit it off if you hadn’t messed it up.” She shook her head, grimaced, reached up with her pencil and scratched under the back of her wig. “For one thing, Buster, you don’t even smoke, much less cigars.”
Buster took a bite of his pancakes, chewed, swallowed, then shook his head. “How can people even smoke those things? That’s what I want to know. I was sick half the night.”
“Then, when she liked you enough to put up with all your... your grossness, when she invited you over to see her new house and-”
“And?” Buster was grinning, watching Hetta’s face turn pink.
“Well, you both could have used a little...a little-”
“A little what?” Buster’s grin widened.
“You know what I mean, Buster Raines.” Then she leaned on the counter, glaring down at him. “Then you pull that prostate operation stuff on her. There’s never been anything wrong with your prostate, Buster. Don’t forget; I know everything that goes on in this town. I’d have known if you’d had any kind of operation, much less prostate. You’re as healthy as a horse, Buster.”
Buster nodded. “But at least I didn’t hurt her feelings, did I? She is a fine looking woman, Hetta, and she’s bound to find a man that’s right for her, but like I told you, girl, I’m happy just like I am. I had twenty-eight happy years with a fine woman; that’s more than a lot of men have.” He stood, started to walk away, then stopped and looked back at Hetta. “Now you’re not going to do this again, are you, girl?”
Hetta sighed, shook her head. “Nope, no more matchmaking, Buster.”
Buster nodded, headed for the door.
Hetta watched him go outside and get in his truck, then she muttered to herself, “Not until the next time, that is.” And she smiled that smile of hers.


by Joseph Zlab

It was a sunny, late afternoon. Everything had a warm orange glow. We were in the farmhouse kitchen. I pulled my tee-shirt out of my jeans ans leaned over the white porcelain sink. I stared out the window. The bluegrass music on the radio played over the yelling and laughter of the kids out front. I could just make them out through the glare on the window. They were out on the Merry-Go-Round and Abby had the hose on the rest of them. Kelsie was jumping up, snapping at the water in the air. I took a sip of beer, then wiped the cold can across my forehead.
Nancy came up from behind and slipped her arms around me. She looked over my shoulder at the kids. I breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. Life just doesn’t get much better.
Harvest starts next week. This years crop is just about as much as we will be able to handle. We will be living well this winter.
I said, “ you think the kids would like to go skiing this December? I was thinking we could go to Utah.”
Nancy pulled a little closer and said, “What do you think? John is cutting lawns for a new set of downhill skis.”
“Man, that boy is growing”.
“You’re telling me. It seems like I’m buying him new Levis every three weeks.”
I took another sip. I patted Nancy on the leg with my free hand and said, “I love you”.
She took my beer and gulped a few swallows. Setting it aside , she ran her hands op my shirt sleeves. I turned and noticed the fire in her eyes. She smiled mischieviously and said, “get me drunk and take me to bed”.

Emily Promised to Live, But She Lied

Lisa Katherine Hughes

So here it is, as I remember it. Please bear in mind that I had been awoken in the middle of the night by my father’s yelling. I was only half awake. I would say it was all a dream, but I was wide awake the next day when the bishop of our ward asked everyone in the church to pray for Emily. My Emily.

“She took all of her medication. She took three bottles of medication. I don’t
know what to do. I need an ambulance, fast.” Dad was panicing as he talked to the 911 operator. The first thing I saw as I left my room was my dad. He was on the phone down the hall.

I don’t remember where Emily was when I first saw her. She was wearing just a
shirt and underwear. I was very confused when I first saw her. I didn’t know what was going on. I am sure I looked at my dad on the phone after seeing the doped up look on my sister’s face.

And then I knew.

She had broken her promise. She had lied. All those different times in the mental hospitals when she had so many razor blades, she never once tried to kill herself. But tonight she broke the promise she made to us and to God and tried to take her life. And from the looks of it she was damn close.

She smiled at me. But her eyes did not see me. And then her smile went away. She tried to walk. She kept bumping into the hall walls. But she kept moving. And then she sat down. She started to close her eyes. Didn’t I read somewhere that if someone closes their eyes and then goes unconscious, they die? I was so scared she was going to die. I talked very loudly to her. “Emily, hang in there. Help is on the way. Em, you have to stay awake. Not too much longer, Em. Just hang in there, Emily. Emily, we love you. You have to stay awake. Keep your eyes open, Em.”

The next thing I remember is Dad holding Em as she went into convulsions. Her legs and arms and head started shaking. All of her just started to move. Then she started to make noises. These awful noises kept coming out of her throat. And Dad just held her.

The ambulance arrived. The emergency medical men came through the door.
They asked some questions. They found out what medication she had taken. And they called her by name as they worked to save her precious life. She lay there on the floor, shaking and making gutteral noises, wearing only a shirt and underwear, surrounded by a bunch of gaurdian angels in blue and orange.

I heard movement in Philip’s room. Philip is nine. He is the sweetest little boy.
He is very sensitive. He is very loving. He is easily hurt. And it would have scared him to see this. I went into his room and closed the door behind me. I sat down in the dark. I sat listening to the noises Emily made. I listened to the emergency crew talking to her and talking to each other, doing all they could to save her. And I cried.

They strapped Emily down. They counted together. Then they lifted her and
carried her out to the ambulance. And they left.

I got up and walked out of the room. Andrea, my sister in law and friend, was
walking around looking lost. “What is going on? Is everything okay?” I hugged her and began to cry once again. I just buried my face in her shoulder and held on tight. Then I told her all I knew. “Oh my gosh.”

There was one man left at our house. He cleaned up the mess they left. Then, as he was leaving, he said, “They are doing the best they can to save her life.” And he was gone.

Andrea and I sat down and talked. We cried and laughed and sighed and smiled and frowned. And after a few hours, I was exhausted. I went to bed and tried to rest so I would have the strength to face the days to come with a healing heart and an unbreakable spirit.

I Am Not A Team Player

By Cynthia Arbuthnot

I am not a team player. Other people may think I am arrogant, antisocial, and rude, but I am not. I just like to do my own thing my way, and if other people think that there is anything wrong with that, then they are wrong. I do not judge them by saying that they are communistic, socialistic, and nosy. Therefore, why should they have the right to say cruel things about me just because I prefer to do things the way I want them done, all by myself.
Even when I was a child, I was this way. My grandmother once told me that when my children are in school, I should get a job just to be around other people. My mother and grandmother are not great people’s persons, either, and my grandmother blames this on the fact that they were homemakers for so many years. In Grandma’s case, perhaps, but I do not think my mother was ever a people’s person.
My mother is just quiet and tends to like to do things like sew, read, garden, and spend time with her cats. A lot of people would say that she is reclusive, but what is wrong with that? I think that if you enjoy spending time alone, there is nothing wrong with it. For some people, like my aunt (a realtor), there would be something wrong, because my aunt likes to be in the company of people all the time. To be in the company of people all the time would drive my mother crazy.
My mother is not as reclusive as other people think, either. She is a beautician who works with other people all day long. She has the Type B personality needed in order to do this job and enjoy it. I, on the other hand, am more of a Type A person who would get impatient with people complaining and have to go to something else fairly soon. I think my mother has earned her free time alone with her books, cats, garden, and crafts.
I think the main problem certain members of my family have with Grandma is that she calls them almost daily and wants them to come over to visit. Grandma tends to get a little upset when no one will come visit her. Therefore, her arthritis or Parkinson’s get a little worse. I know that she has problems with these things, but what I do not know is whether or not she plays them up in order to get company. There are some members of my family who say yes, and others who say no. I say that she is Grandma, therefore, she should get respect from her offspring and attention.
I do not feel that I am antisocial or anything like that. To me, antisocial behavior consists of things like vandalism and maliciousness toward other people or animals. I am not malicious or destructive. I just do not like people around me all of the time. I like sports that feature individuals competing against each other as opposed to sports where teams compete against other teams. I am a very competitive person at heart, so I am not a reclusive person. How can someone be competitive and reclusive at the same time?
When I was in high school and college, I tended to choose passive partners for projects that called for “lab partners.” My reason for this was simple: I like to do things by myself and feel that other people slow me down. My passive partner took notes while I did the project and dictated what he/she should write down. This way, we both learned something from the project while at the same time doing what we liked to do best. This is the part where other people who do not understand would say that I am an arrogant person. I am not arrogant. I just like to do things my way and get what I feel are the best results for my partner and me. Invariably, the people I chose did not want to do the “hands on” part of the lab, and I liked that part the most, so this worked out well for both of us.
To summarize, some people are social animals. These people enjoy having other people around all the time and are stimulated by the interpersonal activities going on. Other people like to be left alone to pursue their own agendas. These people are stimulated by the pursuit of things they feel are important not only to them, but possibly to other people who may reap the benefits later. There is nothing wrong with either viewpoint, because they are both viewpoints and the people who follow them are happy and healthy people.

The Flight Within

by Christopher Dittrick

Perhaps one day an off-worlder may read this. Actually I don’t care if anyone ever sees this. But since you have, I’ll begin with the textbook description of Tahnean that I learned early on in my schooling.
Tahnean, the city I happen to live in, is one of many that exist within the world of my people. That is, the world-ship, a spaceship one quarter the size of a standard mid-sized life baring world. More description other than that is pretty irrelevant here. All I’ve known is my home, a city that is housed within two of the many thousand or so compartments within. A compartment is about a thousand meters high, a thousand meters wide, and two and a half kilometers long.
The city itself looks much as the planets-side cities did, or at least thats what I’ve been taught. Squares of linear transitway abound buildings that sometimes reach the ceiling, although you’d never see to know it. Limitless mauve skies reach above a similarly holographic mountainscape outside the bounds of the city. A perfect illusion, except for two minor details: leaving the city puts one in the next compartment with a different illusion, and some buildings are actually connected to the top of the compartment.
A perfectly smooth, white, two hundred meter high wall surrounds the city. It’s actually the compartment wall and contains regularly spaced orifices. But across the long dimension of Tahnean, there is another such wall. According to history, it represents the compartment wall that had once impeded view before the city had expanded enough to require the second compartment. Indeed a view from one side of the city can clearly see the other. This is where the trouble began.
A few wispy clouds drifted in the virtual sky as the three of us stood on top of the nine building that stood on East Marok Tran. Its roof was about half-way to the ceiling. It was on such days when the virtual light shone that we came here to watch the traffic below as if we were the Cen-Comp AI, our world’s leader.
“Wouldn’t it be cool to go over the dividing wall?” Said Chey, a maniacal smile peeking between the strands of hair that surrounded his head. He looked down leaning against the edge-rail.
“Fool.” I replied. “You can’t climb the wall. Not even a fly can stick to it.”
Irea put her arm around Chey’s dark vinyl jacket. “You ever heard of a ladder.”
“Not one two hundred meters.” I said after their laughter had died enough to not have to shout. Chey did so hate shouting and my shoulder was still sore from the last time I tried to stand up to him several minutes before.
Irea put her hands in pockets of her jacket as the pair turned to face me.
Chey stepped up grabbed me tightly on both shoulders, his face close enough to smell what he had eaten for lunch. His eyes were wide in a gaze that spoke only of random destruction. Together, we held this pose and the breeze pulled at our hair. Then he let go and stepped back. If only I had never heard what he had said next.
“We could fly.”
I don’t remember much else of that day but the fact that I had been afraid. It was the first time I had ever thought about breaking a law. Flying was forbidden by the Cen-Comp.
Within the next few days Chey had managed to obtain the plans for the makeshift glider.
It wasn’t an easy task, for the Cen-Comp knew of all accesses to the database and was not one to overlook such an inquiry. Chey’s brother had a friend who had a cousin who owed Chey a favor. I don’t know who this person was and I wouldn’t say if I did, but I do know that he was an infospec. He was one of the few people in this world who could acquire knowledge without its presence being known. It was accomplished pretty much by obtaining different bits of data from many ambiguous databases and assembling the whole. This could often require a second infospec who engineers mechanics, performs the replication chemistry, or some other such science.
It took a week to produce the parts for the makeshift glider one piece at a time from different automated production sites. How we had ever managed to smuggle them to top of the nine build, piece by piece, without the Cen-Comp finding out was an unknown. The Cen-Comp was said to see everything that went on in the world and sometimes in the worlds outside ours.
But the time had come to assemble our glider and fly. I had tried to stay home, but Chey and Irea came to my cubicle. My parents found this as the perfect excuse to put me outside. They had claimed I needed more time to socialize.
So here I was yet again on the nine building, this time standing next to the gray glider. This time the sky too was overcast. “So who is going to try it?” I said to Chey as he tied the last of the harness.
“Wouldn’t expect you to, friend. I’m lucky if I can get you to climb stairs.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t do this.” I backed up a step toward the door and the comfort of the stairs leading down.
“You can go back if you want.” Chey was now tying himself into the harness. “Say hi to your mommy for me.”
If only I had the chance to turn back the clock at this moment; to, for once in my pitiful existence, stand up and tell Chey he was a dork and beat him down.
But that’s not what had happened. Instead, Chey lifted his wings upon his shoulders and ran straight for the edge. He jumped neatly over the rail and into the air beyond. Where is the all seeing AI now? Why didn’t it stop this madness and protect us from ourselves?
The glider seemingly hung in air for just a moment and drifted away from the building and towards the wall. I watched breathlessly as Chey drifted closer to the wall becoming lower and tinier in the distance.
Irea held her fist tightly at her sides as she watched the spectacle unfold.
From where we stood it was hard to tell if Chey had actually passed over the wall before his glider reared up and began its dive. I like to think that maybe he did look down and see the top of the wall. Neither am I sure what had happen with Irea after that moment of horror as the glider plummeted, gaining speed. I turned and ran down the stairs, gaining a speed of my own.
I must have sat in my cubicle for days. Later, I was informed that it was four. It was then I had the nerve to check the datafile on the event. The AI had actually seen us. It was luck that we had merely amused her, because she decided that only Chey would be punished. His stall had not been fatal, but the immediate exile from Tahnean that followed might has well have been.
It had been required of me to write out my view of the whole mess for the database and to help me think about what had been wrong. I know now that I will never seek the tops of buildings for solace and companionship.
There is however a rumor of a forest in a nearby compartment....

Signed - Johanes Rigby

letter to a troubled friend

by mackenzie silver

I’ve never been able to tell you how I feel, because you never let me. When I try to say something, and believe me, I try to do it in the most tactful way possible and I only begin to scrape the surface, you react in one of the following ways:
1) You cut me off, get defensive, say you never do these things.
2) You go through denial, and say I’m overreacting, because your behavior is normal.
3) You apologize, but the behavior never changes.
No one wants to deal with a sour reaction, especially when you’re trying to tell them something is wrong. I’ve pussy-footed around you through subjects such as your work, your family, the men in your life and the men in mine, your surgery - you name it, and all because I can never tell you when there is something wrong. I’ve wanted to confront you, but you make it impossible. I really feel like I have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to maintaining a friendship with you. In fact, I think that a lot of the time the work I have put into it has been very uneven in comparison to what you have done. But I was willing to do it; I cared about you as a friend.
I’ve noticed a change in you in the past few years. When you were in college, you were still being supported by your parents, you had the love of your life with you. Since you have been on your own, you have no direction and no one to share your life with. From what I can gather, this behavior now relates to your feeling insecure about yourself and seeking positive reinforcement in men. They can be men with whom you have no future with, men that are gay and you have no chance with, men you have no interest in, or men who are abusive at best. You’ve gone after men that fit all of these examples. They can even be men I’ve expressed interest in, or men I’m dating - and then they would be an additional boost to you because someone would like you more than me.
I have seen this self-destructive behavior in you and I have known that for the most part there was nothing I could do or say about it, because you never listen to me. You don’t want to hear it from me. You get angry when I try to tell you what I see. You call me a therapist. And I don’t want to get the third degree when I’m trying to help you.
If you think you really need other people to boost your ego, maybe you should realize that the only person that can make you feel good is you. All this work you are doing in manipulating other men only makes you feel worse inside - because it is costing you yourself. You have to start working on what the real underlying problems in your life are and finally face them head-on. Until then you are only going to lose more friends, be used by more men, and feel like you have gone nowhere in life.
I have overlooked many double-standards in our friendship. If I talk to my boyfriend more than you in a single conversation, you pout and get mad, but as long as you have another friend with you, you can ignore me for literally hours in a social setting, then ditch me, and I’m not supposed to be angry. Yes, this has happened before. My boyfriend putting his arm around me in front of you would remind you of your ex and depress you, but when you make out with a friend of mine - after he flies across the country to visit me for only a short time - I’m not allowed to react. You expect me to take all of my savings and my only weeks vacation and spend it alone with you when I could be with the man I planned to marry, but if you were still going out with your ex, I would never see you, much less have the chance to think about spending a vacation with you. In fact, if I ever suggested a vacation where your boyfriend wasn’t allowed (and yes, you flat-out said my boyfriend wasn’t allowed with us), you’d scream at how inconsiderate I was. You can call me every swear word in the book, but I can say one wrong word - call you child for acting like one, for instance - and you’ll instantly be set off into another mood swing.
I flew across the country and entertained you for a weekend because I wanted you to be happy. It’s not as if I’ve ever had anything but your interests in mind. Only now have I realized how much it has cost me. How much you have hurt me.
I’ve tried telling you over and over again when something is wrong, and your reaction is usually denial or defensiveness. Especially last time. A guy I’ve gone on two dates with doesn’t matter to me. You do. And that’s why it hurt more than most anything any other friend has done to me. I saw your behavior. You were drunk, and paying every ounce of your attention to him. If you weren’t planning anything, you wouldn’t have waited outside my apartment after I said good-bye to you in order to see him. You did it secretly, behind my back, because you didn’t want me to know what you were doing. You say you don’t remember our discussion (if that’s how drunk you were), but in my bedroom, I told you about me and him, that we had gone on dates, that I was somewhat interested in him, because I noticed your behavior earlier in the evening, and it was hurting me even then. Your response was, “Oh, Janet, I would never do anything like that.” Then that’s exactly what you did. You threw any trust I had for you in my face. You really showed me in one evening how little you cared for me. You can’t tell me otherwise.
If this is another example of how you seem to need attention from men, then realize that you were willing to jeopardize what you called your best friend for it, and that you have a problem. If you don’t remember anything from the evening, then you may have a drinking problem. Either way, there are issues there that you have to address, and I don’t think I am strong enough to carry your problems quietly for you anymore when you are unwilling to face those problems yourself.

I almost didn’t write this letter. I’ve asked friends what I should do.
One person, who didn’t know you, said I should give you another chance. They were the only one that said that.
One said that you didn’t care enough about me, that I tried as hard, or harder, than was ever expected of me, and nothing will change with you, so I should just let it go.
One said it was about time I ended our friendship, because all I have been doing was complaining and struggling to keep you happy.
One said they can’t see me as a difficult person to be friends with, because I’m forgiving and don’t ask for much. That these problems in our friendship don’t stem from a lack of my trying, and don’t even stem from me.
One person, after seeing you at the party, was very disturbed with your behavior in general. They said they would swear you were on drugs, and I couldn’t tell them if they were right or not. They said you looked like you have seen something the rest of the world doesn’t know about, and that it had made you very depressed, like you were over the edge, like there was absolutely no hope, and that you just didn’t seem to care about yourself anymore.
I can’t fight that. I can’t fight feelings like that.
If you feel like you hate yourself, then there is nothing I can do for you. If you really think nothing matters, that you can’t feel anything anymore, if you’re not willing to help yourself, then I can’t help either, and I never could. Trying to help you was then pointless. Trying to please you was pointless.
In all the times I’ve tried to tell you how I feel, I usually got defensiveness or denial from you. Never once were you concerned about how I felt. I told you over the phone that last time that you hurt me more than you ever had - more than probably any friend ever had. You didn’t care about that, though. I don’t think you ever did.
And that is what also hurts. I don’t think you do care, and I don’t think you know how to care.
I don’t know what to do anymore, and I don’t know that there is anything that I can do. Or should do. The ball is not in my court, as you have put it in the past, but it is in yours. It always has. It is up to you to make yourself better. To help yourself. This is not a healthy friendship. You have to make yourself whole first.
I’ve seen you degenerate over the past few years. It was one thing when we were still growing up to not know what you wanted to do with your life. It was even normal to feel so confused that you’d go through mood swings. But it has gotten worse. Mood swings become event where you have to tip-toe around, be careful of everything you say. Sometimes knowing that there’s nothing you can say.
I don’t know what to say anymore. You don’t let me say anything. You don’t listen. You need attention, but I can’t give you enough. I don’t think anyone can.
I’m not writing this letter in an effort to save our friendship. I’ve received no indication that you want to change, to help yourself. Even your last letter to me was only an effort to clear your name, to make you look better, to make sure someone knew what you thought. You didn’t write that letter for me; I’ve seen you go through this with some of your men, wanting to write them letters to get the last word in. You wrote it for you, to make yourself feel like you’ve had your say. It wasn’t out of concern for me. It never is.
You are the one that did this to yourself, and only you can change you. Remember that: you are the one that did this, to you, to me, to what friendship we had. All of this is because of you. There is nothing I can do about it anymore, and I’m not going to sit back and take your behavior anymore. I shouldn’t have to.
You’ve been in therapy for years. You’ve spent a lot of time and money talking to a person every week for years. What has it shown you? What have you learned? You’ve told me that you sometimes won’t tell her things solely because you don’t feel like talking about something, or because you don’t think she should know it. If you’re not willing to share there things, how is she supposed to help you? She doesn’t see a full picture of who you are. Are you just going to her for the attention?
I hope you actually read this letter, not read it and then throw it away because it’s not what you want to hear, but read it, and listen to what I’m telling you. Show it to your therapist. Let her see a different side of the story. Listen for yourself to a different side of the story. You’ve never thought of how other people perceive you, at least not realistically.
Figure out what it takes to make you like yourself again. Or for the first time. I can’t make you do that. No one can. Not your family, friends, not your therapist, not your current abusive man. Most of those people are out for themselves as well, and might hurt you in the process. Find yourself. I don’t know where your hope lies, or if you could ever still have hope. I just know that if you don’t change, and I’ve seen no reason to believe you will, and if I still remain your friend, you’ll only keep hurting me, having no regard for me. A friend shouldn’t make me feel this way. I have to let go. You hurting me is doing neither of us any good. I’ve been a crutch to you; you’ve been a burden to me. I can’t take that burden anymore, and you shouldn’t have the crutch. Do something for yourself. I can’t be your friend if you keep falling the way you have been. I don’t want you to fall, but I can’t pick you up anymore. Only you can help you.

I remember

by janet kuypers

I remember the hot tub party at the end of our junior year. Remember how I begged you to take me, because it was a date dance and not a casual party? You already had a date so you set me up with Reedy, and I thought it was just an innocent friendship set-up... Ugh, what a mess, there I was, trying to push him away from me, and then Chad came along and saved me. I have pictures of us from that night, in the hot tub together, with Tres, who won the palest-man-at-the-party award, or photos inside, with plastic lais around our necks.
I remember when we went to the They Might be Giants concert and managed to get seats in the third row. The two of us, along with four other strangers, then yelled requests at the band when they weren’t playing music. I still can’t believe we actually got them to respond to us while they were in the middle of a show.
I remember when we were travelling through Boston, how we stopped at Cheers to take our picture in front of the front door. We were soaking wet because it was raining on our only day in Boston. But we followed all the painted red lines on the streets to find historical landmarks, stood on the torture devises on the sidewalks, took pictures everywhere.
And when we drove to Harvard campus, we took pictures of ourselves looking “intelligent” - looking upward, hands under our chin, poised in thought, looking as tacky as possible.
I remember how we would sit in my dorm room, in the window sill, feet hanging outside, my stereo blaring. You used to always joke that one day you’d push me out the window. But we’d sit there, listening to music, singing to people that would walk in front of my window. Remember how we’d sing to Potholes in My Lawn by De La Soul or Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic or Hoe Down by Special Ed. How you thought the lines to Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might be Giants wasn’t “This is a recording” but “Give it to me, give it to me.” How you thought the lines to Headhunter by Front 242 wasn’t “Three you slowly spread the net” but “Three you slowly spread the legs.” We’d sing, make people look up at us, and either wave or laugh.
Yesterday was the first day that I hadn’t cried for you. Those first two days had been so hard, I might have been fine for a half hour and then something would trigger it in my mind and I would want to cry. I thought maybe I’m getting used to the news, but today I cried again.
I remember the Valentine’s Dance we went to together. It was at your fraternity house, you came over, dressed up in a nice suit, I was wearing a red strapless Vanna White-style dress, and you came over and you looked so mad.
“Why are you mad?”
“I just came from the house, it’s an hour before the dance, and everyone is wearing jeans watching the basketball game. Decorations aren’t even up.”
I look at my dress. “So what you’re saying is that I’m overdressed?”
We decided to take pictures of us dressed up before I changed dresses. We went through a few photos, then I changed into a more casual, cotton, off-the-shoulder dress. We took more pictures with outfit number two. Then I felt a breeze. Apparently there was a rip in the back of the dress, making it indecent at best. So, back to the closet I went, found a casual black dress, and so we took yet more pictures. Then off to the dance we went.
I remember how you’d come over to my dorm on Sunday nights, and we’d order pizza, usually Grog’s, Home of Mold, I think, and spend the evening together. We’d play Stand by R.E.M. and do the dance they do in the video. Or we’d play Madonna’s Vogue and you’d contort yourself around. Once we even spent the evening writing up lists of exes, like we were in high school.
I remember how we met - I was sitting in the cafeteria with the other girls from my dorm, and you were friends with them so you sat down and ended up right across the table from me. And it was right after Christmas break and I just got back from visiting my parents in Florida and was tan, so your first words to me were, “Is that a real tan?” And I was so mad at you, I though you were a cocky jerk.
“Well, you could have gone to a tanning salon over vacation!”
I don’t know how that could have been the start of one of the best friendships of my life.
And when you called me on the phone to tell me the news you still sounded so happy. Your viewpoint was that anyone could die at any point in time and we have to live every day to the fullest. “And I could be hit by a car tomorrow,” you said. You can’t let the thought of death kill you. And you were telling me these things, and I was trying so hard not to just start sobbing on the phone.
I remember our freshman year in college, after the horrible way we met, of course, and how we’d go to Eddie’s bar for ice cream drinks. They were about the only things we could order while underage, so we’d spend I don’t know how many Saturday afternoons drinking Oreo shakes, or maybe peach, or mint. I remember walking home to the dorms with you one rainy Saturday after an Eddie’s excursion, and we just decided to walk in the middle of the street, jumping in as many puddles as possible. A truck even drove by, yelled that we were going to catch colds. And we just laughed. We were alive, and invincible.
I remember when we met up in New Orleans, I was with Eugene, you were with Randy and Jessica, and you found out how to get to the roof of the Jackson Brewing Company building. It was the highest building near the French Quarter, and we had a fantastic view, all to ourselves.
I remember our freshman year you invited me to see the Violent Femmes in concert at Foellinger Hall. You got drunk, and ended up trying to make the moves on me, knowing I had a boyfriend... I knew you had just drank too much, but I had to draw the line when you licked the side of my face. I still like to tease you with that one.
You’re not supposed to die. This isn’t supposed to be happening to you. I’ve always expected to be able to visit your family after we all retire, compare photos of grandchildren. You can’t leave this hole in my life.
I remember after I broke up with Bill I still tried to remain friends with him so I could periodically borrow his black convertible. So one day I did, told him I needed to get some groceries, but I picked you up instead and we put the top down even when it was sixty-five degrees and about to rain and cruised around the mecca known as Champaign, Illinois.
I remember the Halloween Dance we went to. We couldn’t come up with costumes, and last minute we went to Dallas and Company costume shop and you picked up a Dick Tracy bright-yellow overcoat and hat, along with a plastic machine gun with two water cartridges. I put on a black cocktail dress, pulled up my hair, added rhinestones and a dimple and was Breathless Mahoney, but we made a point to fill the machine gun water cartridges, one with peach schnapps, one with peppermint. Someone at the dance would say, “Don’t shoot me!” And we would say in unison, “Don’t worry.” No one could understand why we were shooting at each other’s faces.
I remember how every time we were going out for the evening and you’d be over waiting for me to get ready, I’d come out and ask you how I looked and you would always tell me that I looked really nice. Or sexy. Or fantastic. Or whatever. But you’d always say something to me me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.
I don’t want to catalog these events, these times I’ve shared with you. I don’t want to feel as if there will never be any more memories with you.
I remember how every time you guys would come over to my apartment and start drinking, you would inevitably pull out my hats, particularly the wide-brimmed straw ones, and wear them. How many pictures do I have of you with Jay, or Brian, or Brad, all in a drunken stupor wearing women’s hats?
I remember how at your fraternity house, every time they’d have a party they’d have to play “Crockodile Rock” by Elton John once. And when they did, people made a ring around the dance floor (otherwise known as the living room), and your fraternity brothers would then proceed to do somersaults and other strange dances with each other. I’m glad this whole scene frightened you as much as it did me, because I remember how every time we heard the song we’d run into the basement where the kitchen was and hide until the song was over. Usually we’d find some potato chips or salad croutons to munch on, and we’d sit on the steel counter, amongst racks of generic white bread and bulk containers to tomato paste and talk.
I remember taking Dan out for his twenty-first birthday, this six-foot-five animal of a roommate of ours, and how he got so drunk that when he started to get violent in the bar you suggested that he “play with Carol” in order to entice him to leaving the bar. So we carried him through the bar until he broke free and fell right in front of the bouncers at the front door, and you tried to drag him outside, and then the five of us ended up carrying him blocks home, stopping occasionally from exhaustion and setting him in the dirt. When we got him in you suggested we write all over him, but me being the voice of reason suggested we only write all over his back, so in permanent markers you and Chad and Eric and Ray and I scribbled “I am a drunk moron!” and other intelligent remarks all over him. And you, you were smart enough to be gone when he finally woke up in the morning.
And you were on the phone with me saying that you just have to get used to the fact that you’re not going to grow old, have a family. That all you superiors tell you, wait till you get that promotion, and you know there is no waiting for the future, you won’t be around. People take for granted that they’re just going to be around.
You never did, of course, you were the one that was always making a point to cram as much living as you could in a day, but most people aren’t like that. Most people are never as alive as you.
I remember you and Sara standing on Green and Sixth waiting in line for the cash station when a cop walked up behind the two of you, and appeared to be in line. You asked, “Do you think the cop wants cash?”
I remember visiting you in New Hampshire, trying to decide where to go out to eat for lobster, til I decided on the mess hall at the base. So while you were at work your mom showed me a private room in the hall, with one elaborately set table for two, with china cabinets and a couch and roaring fireplace. I reserved it, went home and put on a black velvet dress and waited for you to get home from work. When you got back, I told your brother and sister to tell you that I changed our plans and I was in the bathroom. You started banging on the bathroom door, and when I opened it you were stunned. You were wearing a uniform that looked like a gas station attendant’s, and there I was, completely dressed up for a formal dinner.
Your sister took a picture of us in your hallway, you just after your shower and still in a bathrobe, and me in that dress.
And after dinner we went for a stroll outside, and you were holding my hand, and I remember thinking that I wanted you to kiss me. It’s funny how we both have thought about dating each other, but never found the right time.
I remember shopping with you on the East coast, going into a clothing store and watching you look for sweaters. You pulled out a pink patterned one, asked my opinion, and I shook my head no. “I’m not a pink person,” I said. You kept looking, so I pulled up a dark brown and black cardigan from the rack and held it up from a few feet away. You shook your head no and said loudly, “I’m not a black person,” loud enough for the black security guard to give you a funny look.
I think I want all of my friends to die after I do. I don’t think I can handle this. You’re not supposed to leave me, I’m the one that’s supposed to make the dramatic exit. Besides, whenever I get married, you’re supposed to stand up in the wedding. If you die before then, I swear, I’ll kill you.
I remember once our freshman year we were sitting in the cafeteria, I don’t remember if it was lunch or dinner, my roommate Lisa was there, and we were screwing around trying to be funny. Well, I got up and got a soft serve ice cream cone and acted like I was tripping as I got to the table, like I was going to drop the cone into your lap. Well, I didn’t, but the ice cream wasn’t securely anchored to the cone, and the next thing I know all my ice cream was right in the middle of your food.
I remember visiting you in New Hampshire, and one night we just watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off over and over again. We learned half the lines to the movie that night.
“I could be the walrus, and I’d still have to bum rides off of people.”
“Drugs?” “No, thank you, I’m straight.”
We’d always find something, a line from a movie or television show... Oh, and Heathers, we could probably recreate scenes from that movie, we’ve seen it so much.
“Thank you, Ms. Fleming, you call me when the shuttle lands.”
“Icklooga bullets, I’m such an idiot...”
“Great pat, but I gotta motor if I’m going to make it to the funeral on time.”
“Will somebody tell me why I smoke these damn things?” “‘Cause you’re an idiot.” “Oh, yeah...”
God, these quotes make sense to no one else, just us, just you and me. It was like we had our own language.
I remember when you came to Chicago to visit me, it was around Christmas time, and you finally saw the house I grew up in. The only thing you noticed was that all of the lamps in the house were hanging from chains.
You said that some people feel like they are on death’s door with a T-cell count of four hundred, and some people can run marathons with a T-cell count of zero. You tell me yours is at eighty, and you feel fine. A little run-down, but that is to be expected.
This scares me. I know I’m being selfish, I know that deep-down inside of you it has to scare you too, but you’re too strong to let it beat you. I don’t want you to feel a little run-down, I don’t want you to feel just fine. I want you to feel alive, more alive than anyone else. I want you to live forever.
I remember once when you took me to an Air Force dinner dance, and afterward I went with you to a party of mostly Air Force people. There were people there I knew, and we were out really late, and by three-thirty in the morning you and Chris walked me home. And we stood out on Fourth Street and talked for a while, and before we knew it you had fallen to the ground grabbing you knee, screaming. You knew how to pop your knee back in place, and granted, from what I understand having your knee pop out is really, really painful, but watching you there almost made Chris and I laugh. After you got it back in place you were just drunk and sad and still in pain and all I kept thinking was “Oh, please, he just needs some sleep,” and I just kept thinking, “Oh, we’re right in front of my apartment, please, it’s four in the morning, let me just go to bed,” but I stayed out there with you and Chris until you were ready to get up and make the long journey home.
I remember the Halloween party I held on Friday the thirteenth of October - your birthday. I put up pages from the Weekly World News about supernatural sightings, lit candles and pulled out the ouija board, then you came over, put on one of my hats, I gave you a carnation, and then we all went out for the night.
I remember when you and Jay and Ellen came over to welcome Blaine to Illinois. You got really drunk, fed Ellen my pound cake that my mother gave me, then proceeded to fall asleep in my chair, sitting sideways with your head in my open window sill. And yes, I have pictures, so you can’t deny any of this.
I remember going to C.O. Daniel’s with you on Friday afternoons with the other guys from the house and how we’d dress up in our Greek Sweatshirts to fit in... Well, you always fit in, that’s how you dressed, but I had to make an exception in my dress code for these weekly happy hours. And I remember how we were wallowing in our respective depression one friday afternoon, saying that nobody loves us and we’re ugly and we’ll grow up old and alone. Well, the vision I had of my future was that I would be an old maid living in an apartment with forty cats, periodically picking one up and asking “You love me, don’t you?”
Well, anyway, I remember how we made a pact that if the two of us were still alone by the time we were forty, we’d get married.
We made a pact. You can’t back out on me now.

Letter on Religion

by alexandria rand

Thank you for writing to me about how you felt about your religion. You wanted a response - and I wanted to tell you the things I’m about to over the phone so you could actually hear my voice - I wanted you to know how honest, sincere and open I’m being in what I say. How much I believe in what I’m saying. We never seem to get the chance to discuss this, and when we are on the phone, it does seem a little difficult to say, “hey, let’s change the subject to our differing religious beliefs.”
So, so you don’t think I was avoiding the questions, I’ll answer them now, point-by-point, from your previous letter.
You first ask me what I think happens to us when we die. You believe one of two things happens - you’re either saved by Jesus Christ and spend eternity in heaven with God, or you spend eternity separated from God.
Whoa, I think I’ve got to cover some other ground about me before I even respond to that one. Okay, here goes: I’m a very rational person by nature (you may not think so by some of the stupid things I’ve done in the past, but I’ve grown up, as have you, and I’ll get into all that later). There is no proof that a God exists - that is inherent and necessary in religion, abandoning reason and having faith that a God exists. And for every situation where a religious person refers to God’s influence, I can give at least three other possibilities that are more grounded in reason - reality - than theirs. The concept of a God doesn’t make sense to me when there are so many other, more rational, possibilities. Something has to be proven to me in order for me to believe it.
Or at least be provable.
Morals taught by religion and the notion of a God are not usually bad, in fact, they are often quite redeeming in society - not killing people, being monogamous, being kind to others - but those are morals, virtues, values, which by definition are not based on religion. One can learn good values, morals without a God or religion. It’s just that most people, as I see it, cannot see a consequence to being “good” unless the consequence is a God. I see consequences in doing good, for myself as well as others, and that is why I choose to be a good, kind, successful person.
Okay, I think that starts to cover the basics, so now I can go back to your letter...
You believe there are two possibilities for you when you die. Since I don’t believe in a God, I believe one thing happens - you die (worm food, to be rude). That I believe is the other major reason why religion and this notion of God has existed for so long - because people are afraid to face death - people really don’t want to believe that death is an end for them. Well, it is an end - for their body, for their personality - of course, their matter and energy go on to exist in new forms after their death, but when you die, you die. That’s what I believe. Your memory can last in others, you can have an effect on other people’s lives after your death, but when you die, you simply cease to exist.
Then you say that you want me to be in heaven with you. Thank you, I really thought that was very sweet. If there was a heaven, I’d want to be there with you, too. If there was a heaven, I would hope that your God would look at the life I’ve lead and think I’m a good person and give me the chance to be a part of his Kingdom after my death. After I’ve seen his existence. If your God was unwilling to give me that chance, then I don’t think I’d like your God.
Then you refer to sharing the joy of heaven with me, and the joy of being with the Lord. There’s another joy I experience, not related to a God, which I don’t think you realize. I’ll explain in a moment.
Yes, you’ve always claimed to be a Christian, and sometimes you haven’t led a very Christ-like life. Most people are that way, and it bothers me that people claim to have beliefs but don’t live by them. They’re not really beliefs then, and all these people are lacking a belief system that they understand. The fact that you’ve decided to actually pay attention to the beliefs you claimed to have before is an admirable thing. Personally, I think you’re going in the wrong direction, because I think the structure your beliefs depend on - Christianity - is a falsehood, but at least you’ve decided to live by the beliefs you’ve claimed for so long.
You write that since your decision to grow in the Lord, you haven’t felt like running away and trying to fill an emptiness in your life with alcohol or sex. That’s good - we all have to come to that point at some time in our lives in order to adhere to a value system. I think I’ve come to that point as well, but by a different means.
Then you ask me: which is better, being a super-intellectual who doesn’t believe in God and has an emptiness in their life, or being the person who has Christ in their life filling that void?
Wow. There are a two things I’d like to say about that last sentence. First, it’s funny how a super-intellectual doesn’t believe in God, but apparently you can’t be a super-intellectual and believe in God (well, that’s true, but I didn’t think you’d write it). Second, you forgot my category - being a super-intellectual who doesn’t believe in God and has no emptiness in their life. I fill my own void. I am whole.
You see similarities between us, and you say that in my searches for the right party or the right man I was looking for Jesus. Well, in the past I suppose I was searching for something else when I was looking for the right party or the right man, but I found it. Myself. I’ve discovered that I’m an intelligent, powerful, beautiful, dedicated, driven woman who can do whatever I set my mind to. I’ve discovered that when I use the best tools I have - my mind - I can succeed in making myself happy, in accomplishing my goals. And you know, knowing that about myself, believing in my abilities as a person - gives me the drive to do what I want and need with my life, and makes me truly happy, deep-down happy. It gives me what you call joy.
And it gives me even a greater joy knowing that it is my mind - my mind, my abilities, my power, not some God’s - that makes my life complete. I have complete dominion over my life. I’m the one I answer to.
I can have a bad day or I can have a good day. Something wrong can happen to me or my circumstances. But I know who I am and I know what I’m capable of, and I have no regrets, and I know that I’ll make it though anything I choose to tackle. I’ll make it through what I choose to tackle, not what your God helps me through. And knowing that I’m a complete human being gives me great joy.
You write that God has helped you in your dealings with AIDS. I’m sure it has - when your world doesn’t make sense, when you’re faced with your own mortality, it’s a great comfort to make sense of it all.That’s often a course of action for many people who get AIDS, when they don’t feel they are strong enough to depend on themselves. People I know in AIDS groups say that’s one of the common routes for people who find out they have AIDS. That’s one of the steps most sufferers of traumatic events go through. That’s what victim-blaming is in cases of rape - it makes no sense that a man did this to a woman, but if it is the woman’s fault, the woman could know what she did wrong - correct the actions of the woman, and the woman is safe from rape - but it’s just not true. This is what you’ve done with your God. God was your answer to all of your questions - not the right answer, in my opinion, but an answer when you could find nothing else.
You say that God is using your situation to help others. No, you’re using your situation to help others. It’s that simple.
You feel that your church is a place for activism. Your church rejects homosexuality. Your church doesn’t believe women are on equal footing with men. The Bible says so. Activism within the church could mean the sharing of values and morals and good beliefs, but I fear that activism within the church would mean the spread of narrow-minded ideas such as homophobia and sexism.
Then you share a few verses with me. The first is John 3:16 (He gave His only son...). You then say “That’s unconditional love. God loves me and you no matter what we say or do. I think that’s wonderful.”
I don’t think that’s wonderful. It makes no sense to give unconditional love. If love is unconditional, then there is no value in it. If you love something or someone whether that something or someone is good or bad, you love something or someone whether you want to or not, then it is not earned, it is not chosen, and it is not a value and it possesses no worth. Value is a standard to be judged by; worth is defined as deserving of or meriting. To me, love is a standard that people earn and therefore deserve, and that is what makes it valuable to me.
You say you can’t believe you lived as long as you did without believing these words. “Yes, it means you don’t get the credit for the things you’ve done, but at the same time, you realize the Lord has a hand in it,” you write. But God didn’t have a hand in it, Gods have been created by people throughout the ages to answer the unanswerable. People created rain gods when they didn’t understand the weather. People created gods for harvests when they didn’t know if they could sustain themselves, when they didn’t have the knowledge to harvest successfully. People created gods that reflected the stars and planets when they didn’t understand the universe beyond the world. People created a God to explain how the world began, how to live well, and what will happen after our lives end. All these gods reflected the image of man and earth. But they were all created.
God doesn’t have a hand in what you do, you do, and you should thus take responsibility - and credit - for what you do.
“Yes, bad things still happen, but you know that God will see you through them,” you write. Yes. bad things still happen, but you know that you will see you through them, you, not your God.
And that brings us to the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness comes and goes. Joy is forever. I even have times that aren’t happy, but I never lose Joy or Hope.
You wrote that sentence, and you wrote it about your God. I could have written that sentence, but it would have been about me.
You really want me to experience the same joy you have. I think I do. And my joy comes from within. You can’t find joy from within, so you find it in your God.
Then you write: “Now let’s say I’m wrong. When you die, you’re just dead and there’s nothing else. Well I’m still happy trusting in God and I won’t have lost anything.”
The thing is, if there is no God, you have lost - you’ve lost your life. You’ve spent your life living for something that wasn’t real, that didn’t exist. You’ve spent your life relying on something other than yourself. You’ve spent your life under false assumptions, not to your full potential, doing what you were not meant to do as a human being. You’ve wasted your life. And to someone who doesn’t believe in a God, you’re life, this lifetime, is all you have, so you’ve lost everything.
“But if I’m right, wouldn’t you like to be with me in heaven?”
As I wrote before, if there was a heaven, I would hope that your God would look at the life I’ve lead and think I’m a good person and give me the chance to be a part of his Kingdom after my death. If I saw a God, if he was shown to me after I died, I think I would be on my knees praising (I mean, you’d have to respect the guy if he really did everything religion claims). If your God was unwilling to give me that chance, then I don’t think I like your God. Besides, that wouldn’t be a God that loves me unconditionally.
I don’t think you’re some brainwashed right-wing preacher, as you write. I do think you have intelligence. I also think you’re scared. I think most of us, most people our own age, still feel as invincible as we did when we were too young to understand death, and none of us are really ever ready to face our own mortality.
I wish I could help you with your fears. I don’t know the right words to say, but I know that the answers are within you, and you just have to look for them.
I have thought about this, I wouldn’t just cast aside what you say (I think this letter is evidence to that...). But I’ve thought about this for years; you’d have to do that in order to have a cohesive value system.
And I don’t think this because I think the world is cruel and evil. In fact, I think there is the opportunity for great happiness and joy in life, for great achievements, and for great minds to prosper. But for great minds to prosper, they have to follow reason. Faith may be acceptable for hunches about unimportant day-to-day events, but not with your life.
You have to take your life into your own hands and make it what you want.
I know you won’t read this and agree with me, I’m just hoping you understand me and not worry about me (I get the impression that you do - that you think I have a void in my life and it is only filled with depression, and that’s simply not true). As we grow up, grow old, mature and gain knowledge, we have to come up with a comprehensive value system in order to make our lives complete. I think I’ve done a pretty good job for myself; I’m sure there’s a lot more learning I have to do in my lifetime, but I think I’m on the right track. I hope you are, too.

Through my Father’s Eyes

by Jeanette Foresta

Water surrounded me. Blue mist washed over me. Sunlight slanted down to illuminate the humps and outcroppings of coral and tumbled lava. Reef fish darted in flashes of color. Wave reflections undulated in a shining web of light. It was a landscape so colorful and strange that it might have been a wonderful place to live if I hadn’t been dreaming. This dream took me back to one clear and sunny day at Bath Beach in Brooklyn in 1924. It was a crowded day at the beach that day. I was 10 years old, and my threebrothers and two sisters came along with mom and dad. My father’s last name was Montaperto,- “montaî meaning mountain, and “perto” meaning open. He was born on the volcanic island of Stromboli in 1884, an island in the Mediterranean about two hundred miles west of Italy. Stromboli is solid rock with a few olive trees, goats, and dogs. My Grandfather Jack used to take his fishing boat to Italy for food, and notions for the population of 80 people living on the volcano.Jack would leave for his daily run, and my father Joe, and his brother Vincent would dive in the ocean for fish to sell.
My father Joe and his brothers Vincent, Enrico and Salvatore were great swimmers with muscular builds, and they did most of the dive-fishing in the crisp blue ocean for the people on the island.
As the years went by, my father found his way to Brooklyn, where we would frequently go to the beach. One day we were playing in the sand making castles when all of a sudden we heard a commotion. Looking around we saw that everyone was rushing out of the water shouting something about sharks. “Sharks!” I said. Then without another word my father proceeded to go into the water to everyone’s amazement. He ignored the fierce yelling from the lifeguard to “Stop, Sharks!” But my father never paid him any mind, and dove straight into the chopping waves. I thought, “What is he trying to do - kill himself?”
Every hair follicle on my body was prickling, and there was a knot beginning to grow in the tensed pit of my belly, and I thought, ‘What if it’s a sea monster or a giant whale ? “The people on the crowded beach stood there, eyes wide and mouths open silently waiting, wondering what he was doing. My mother’s eyes scanning over the sea, seemed distant and trance-like. As my father reached the sharks we were shocked to see that he was petting them, then taking rides by holding onto their fins. That’s when I realized, from the stories my father used to tell us about his life on the island, that it wasn’t sharks at all, but porpoises. As my father surfaced from an under water dive, his black hair plastered to his skull giving him a planed-down look. He looked like a warrior in a dark helmet coming home from battle as he emerged to a cheering crowd. Yes, it was a happy day. After a while the porpoises moved out to sea, and were soon forgotten as everyone went back into the water. It wasn’t until much later on that everyone else realized what truly intelligent, and wonderful animals these dolphins are. However, my father already knew.



Richard Grove

A taught electric cable
brought to life in song by wind
on this yellow elm day.
Gulls wail their lament
at the now decline of summer.

The Dresser

Tom Hamilton

The human girls are posing like billiard pockets.
Clogging by the juke box little things that stop a drain.
They are things you see, they work, they hurt.
They are not as infallible as their pinup counterparts.
There are many levers inside them.
Somet things you want, some things you don’t.
I’d disgrace myself and them by calling a hole. But not so.

The red numbers on my clock
stare out with barbarous, subnatural eyes.
Supplying me with this demon dream:

I can see you sitting, serenely at your vanity.
Your shoulders squared likke the Queen of Diamonds.
I’m hypnotized by the sanctity streaking your hair.
But you comb out damp holiness, it’s dank and unwanted.
I rush slowly from the bed to bed you to keep it,
and kneel at your side like an old time proposal.
Hoping to worship and touch your fabric static,
But nmy words chirp out as as nonsensical bird calls,
and you stand up like a protester as a wedding.
I reach for the life jacket of your nightgown,
but you fade from my fist to an opposite mist,
moving through me as if I were made out of pollen.
Your dawn crayon eyes
only focused on fashion.
You walk to the dresser.

The day passes fast and blurry like subway scenery.
Fool Hall: If I beebee my eyes to distant heart and squint.
I could imaginea fat, four-eyed ‘you’ on that wall
chundering a wondering with the other beckon calls.
or maybe.. maybe..

brushing those strands of rarity so precious.
selecting sweet gold from the various cosmetics,
as if you could add to your monsterous beauty
or if there was a dream where you could see me...

sliding up to the bar like tightening a tie.
The inhuman girls are shrieking, giggling and wrestling,
I look at the stinking drink in my tentacle.
Sober, tired and full but I can’t go...

I sit in fractured scents by teh shattered shard vanity,

looking for a peaceful piece among busted reflections.
One with an image of you by the dresser.

(To anyone who has known someone who had fought or is fighting cancer)

The Disease

Stephanie Jean Adams

The bloodthirsty creature runs mad through this unknown realm
The attack so rapid and unpredictable
The world at an unspoken pause
For it wasn’t until this day, that I was attentive
That horrifying disease could rupture anyone’s soul.

The child’s face I thought I knew, now pale, swollen, and shattered
What once shown bright and starlit eyes
Now dark, hopeless and tired
Long days gone by and nights so cold
Many more to come before the beast is conquered.

An endless prayer in this mind
An eternity of hope
For that child’s face I know to give his strength and courage
For I wish to see the effervescent smile again
I pray for all eternity that this monster gets defeated.


Katherine Riddle

ice cold water
trickling down my spine
muscles frozen
heart a block of ice

a whole life lived

of falling
of flying
of living
of dying
of loving
of hating
of leaving
of staying
of old
of new
of me
of you

I take a step off the ledge
off the edge

to live
to die
to laugh
to cry
to be free



by sharon

People beat their spouses, and sadly even their trusting,
helpless children. Three innocent souls touched my heart as I
played with them at a domestic violence center last
Thanksgiving. As they walked back down the hallway with
their mothers, Joshua, a bruised little boy in batman
pajamas, ran back to me and hugged so tightly, as only a
sweet little boy could. Heather returned shyly an hour later
with a drawing of blue hearts and pink arrows. Three of them,
one for each child, she explained: Joshua, Heather and
Taylor... Each were connected, for they could only hope to
get through this together.


In your dreams you’re Batman
You are five
Fearless in your sleep
But oh,
So scared when awake
In your dreams you fly
Away from danger
Away from pain
Away from your father
Who beats you
Who beats your mother
Your sister
Your brother
You are only five
You cannot protect them
In your dreams you’re Batman
They are safe



Seven schools
Always running
Faster than tears can fall
Only seven
He won’t find us
Seven schools
Seven years old
Seven names
Seven lives
I don’t want to go
Not again
I have friends
I can’t leave
He’s found us
A cat has nine lives
I now
Have eight.



Who’s to say
that the sound of his drum
is not correct
That it is our drum
that beats oddly to
prosperity and fortune and greed
when he dances to sunshine.
That we close our eyes,
strain to see God
and he simply
looks to his shoulder
where God’s hand lies
slowly strumming
a peaceful beat,
The same beat
to which our friend dances.

A Twenty-five Minute Face Biting Walk

Richard Grove

Biting cold, dry,
cracked knuckles
fingers gloved,
stinging wind
face ripping rage.

A streetcar passes leaving us behind

Tilted, quick stepped,
hooded head down
a sidewalk staring blur,
an icy wind torn tear,
frozen too cheek

Another streetcar passes us by.

A rosy cheeked,
nose dripping
refreshing walk!!

Another streetcar passes us by.

Why did we bother?

Yet another streetcar passes by.

Why did we bother,
to take the opportunity to walk
on this blessed night
when we could have been
on that very first streetcar
warm and looking back?


Richard Grove

I will only too soon return
these few borrowed atoms to you
mother earth.

I hope you don’t mind my
staying alive just a bit longer to use them.
The longer the better.

Am I to be considered by you
simply a parcel of borrowed atoms?
held together by principles of matter
by which I am mixed?
Not a single ion has gone to waist you know.
Please do not be in such a hurry to redistribute them
over this earth
back into the cosmose.
Do not force me too soon to be
subject to the withers of time.


Richard Grove

Driving rains traverse grey sky in perfect tilt
pelting still hot sands
shattering moon’s reflection on beaten bay.

Laden mist raked by outstretched branches
dragged by sodden ground.
drumming out the meaning of summer.


Denise Barbarita

with tiny black speckles
smells like honeysuckle
and i like it
wafting in my direction
through the garden fence
into my open window

with tiny black speckles
up my curtain
won’t she be disappointed
or is it the view she’s after
don’t know for certain

with tiny weenie black speckles
crawls around the lines in my hand
moving up the arm
a new feat in ladybug exploration

with itty bitty black speckles
me in blue
wearing a little piece of you
something borrowed
something new
named the ladybug roxanne

and just what do ladybugs turn into?

Arlene Ang

Fishes floating on their sides,
stomachs bloated in the sun,
the waters a green mould
at the bottom of the pond.

‘These here,’ he said,
‘are my creatures. This is
my sun, my pond, my home -
for I created all.’

And it was noted down in a book.

Are we to believe now
that he was God?

Richard Grove

Spring Thaw
With The Flesh Of Time

Now sodden,
snow covered ground,
with winter’s thawing.
Surrounding tree trunks,
evidenced by,
time crawled lichen,
the markings of history,
the flesh of time.


Richard Grove

Time buckled and then it came to a stand still,
The earth came to a jarring stop.
Nothing in the universe moved,
not an electron spun
or star pulsed.
The skin of time was pealed back to expose,
the black of nothingness,
and then laid back down for all to start up again.
Not even did I exist for that millisecond.
Beauty and love evaporated with light into darkness.
Trees, rocks, the grass
were all sucked into their own shadow.
Everything was sill.
No motion, No light.
Fun and laughter melted from faces,
jammed into the black pit of pupils.
Fear, pain and anger vanished into the same blackness,
where everything else temporal rested.
Nothing existed for that millisecond between thoughts.
All was still and painless.


Richard Grove

From within the pitch black
of our tiny cabin
I look out past the silhouette
of jagged tree tops
to the billion, trillion stars of infinity.
I listen past the gentle
rustle of leaves to Love’s melody of peace.
I have been touched by eternity
and God’s boundless ever presence of now.


Richard Grove

The earth goes round and round
The sun rises and then it falls
All will be the same in the morning
The more things end
The more we find ourselves at the start
The sun rises and then it falls
The clouds fill the lakes
The lakes the rivers
The rivers run forever in one direction
All will be the same in the morning
The more things end
The more we find ourselves at the start
As one breath leaves our body
One more is on its way in
The earth goes round and round
The sun rises and then it falls
All will be the same in the morning
The more things end
The more we find ourselves at the start
Never ending
Never starting
All will be the same
Until things change

This Day’s Last Adieu

Richard Grove

Rising full moon,
perched in distant trees,
beyond fence-line,
Cerated moonlight,
flickers atop,
tall silver capped grass,
shimmering waves that
hum a lullaby of silence.

How Do I Explain It

Janet Kuypers


there are so many times
when I have had so little

& maybe that’s MY problem, not yours
& maybe this is a bad way
to start a poem

so forgive me

but the thing is, people keep trying to tell me
that this is the hard part

& I have been through so much
haven’t I gone through enough?

& I am beginning to think
that well, maybe I DON’T deserve it
& maybe bad things

are MEANT to happen to me

& how do I explain that
to the average person?
how do I explain
what I am going through
how do I explain
the way I feel

how do I explain it


I mean, I know I am a writer,
so explaining this all
should not be so hard

but it is

Describe the color blue to a blind man
& see how you are at a loss for words

How do you explain this all
with quick wit & a shark tongue?


so they key here for me
is that sometimes good things can happen
when you least expect it

& instead of my griping about it
or feeling sorry for myself

maybe I should just be happy with it


& when people tell me
that the sky looks REALLY blue today
I just think,
well, that is called SCIENCE,
the sky is always blue

& that answer
that comment
is that supposed to make me feel better?


& maybe when people tell me
that every cloud has a silver lining
well, maybe I should enjoy the silver lining
every once in a while
& when people complain
that the grass is always greener on the other side

well, maybe at times like those
i should learn to like the view from this side
because at least I get to see the green grass

well, it’s just a theory

cause maybe this ride ain’t so bad
& maybe this SIDE ain’t so bad
& maybe there is a chance

for that other side for me
& maybe i’ve had a taste

of all that good stuff

& you know, it occurred to me
that the good stuff ain’t all that after all
& that maybe there is someone

out there like me
& that maybe someone cares about me
& maybe someone respects me
& thinks I’m intelligent
& beautiful



a couple of days ago
john gave me some roses
an even half dozen, something that
didn’t even need to be wrapped by the florist

well, that’s just my thought

on the matter

but john had an answer for me

he told me that he gave me five roses
for the five days he had known me
& the sixth one
well, was just for me

because I deserved it

& those were the words he used
& that is what he said to me
& I have received flowers

from other men before
& for all of this it was different

because he said those words to me
because he thought of me
& that was almost worth more

than the flowers



& yeah, I could go on & on & on
about the fact that he is taller than me

I can wear high heels in front of him
& I won’t dwarf him

& when he holds me it feels like
I’m actually being held
& not that I’m about to break
the man I’m hugging into two pieces
& maybe he was a marine
& can hold his own
& maybe he has travelled
all over the place
& seen different things
& had different chances

& yeah, maybe he carries all my stuff
around in my apartment
because it might be too heavy for me

& yeah, I could get angry at that
I could think that I can carry this myself
that I’m not a
& that I don’t need


but for now
for now I’m stuck in this happy mode
remembering what it’s like
where the grass is greener
& enjoying in that silver lining
& well, being happy that
I can almost touch that green grass now

‘cause I’m sick of hearing
about the four-leaf clovers
& the rainbows
& the pots of gold

& all that other crap
that is supposed to make you happy


& maybe I am just happy that
someone gave me attention

& gives me attention

& that that someone cares about me

I got that attention from someone
who thought I was worth it
from someone I thought was worth it

& when you finally get to this point,
when you think no one else can
understand this feeling

& all the references to growing grass
an bubbles & sunsets

don’t quite cut it

well, when you get to feel
this way

the way I feel

how do you explain it

A World Apart


I close my eyes
and I can see
the fear in your eyes,
looking for answers
that I don’t have.

I don’t know why God
chose you
to live such a
difficult life.
Why you dream the
same dreams I do
laying huddled
in the city streets
and I, asleep in my bed.

I don’t know why
our worlds
turned so different.
Your fears, real,
mine are shallow.

I close my eyes
knowing I will open them again tomorrow.
You simply
close your eyes.


Katherine Riddle

I lie languidly
on the bed,
the taste of your skin
still on my lips

the cool breeze
gently caresses
your naked beauty.
my eyes linger
on your soft pale cheek

I smell the sweet aroma
of perfume,
and lightly kiss your hair.
I feel the frantic rhythm
of our hearts,
beating wildly together,
whispering secrets,
knowing daylight will bring
the world
to rip our sacred magic.
covering it,
hiding it.
we can only clutch
the familiar dream,


Arlene Ang

clinging desperately to
the waft of steam
which rises
from the froth
of a capuccino scene

a need presents itself:
to carve the moment
forever in the mind
with the sound of
one spoon stirring
making insistent
circles in the dark
with the air having
devoured all notion of time

I write on this coffee table
etching here my name
and all remembrance of
midafternoon breaks
which shall soon be
drunk without much relish
and disappeared
into the air
a mere trifle of a wish
as always dying


Arlene Ang

Snarl of morning above rooftops
encroaches upon the Persian rug

Climbs up the four-poster
to claw blankets into submission

Now is only a cold draft
left by old lovers’ night clothes

It’s always so hard waking up Mondays


Denise Barbarita

so i held my breath
one- two- three
i held my breath
only for a moment
with the need to believe still in me
and somewhere along the way
i lost a little part
i’m sure she’s hiding in the back of the stairs
i still need........something
i still want
desire’s breathing through me
but it’s something i can’t find
and i know it’s right here in front of me
on the desk
next to this 1/2 eaten apple cake
next to the paperclips
the mundanities of life in the fast lane
it’s always a wait
it’s a lot of heartache
remember mama saying i’m too impatient
maybe i should learn to sit still and let things come
but then that’s never been me
i’m too easy to decieve
always looking for the good
and somehow hoping they like me
so i hold my breath
waiting for whatever’s coming to me
and i think of you
what you mean to me
and somewhere in there
lies a truth
a meaning
a meeting of
souls in the battlefield
looking for the portal to jump through
and i’m still waiting


Denise Barbarita

what’s all this noise about redemption
since when have sinners needed sanctity
girl’s got her hands
groping above her knees
ready to please the right sort of attention

and so i know this bug called love
he’s bitten me and left me screaming
got his peeps on me
and if it’s feeling like i gotta slap in the face
or having a hand in the right place
then what i’ve got is a friend who likes to make me come
no more
no less
and in the end
it comes down to wanting
only what’s between the legs
otherwise he wouldn’t get some
and what he calls love
i don’t seem to know
but it’s the closest thing to love we’ve come to


Bernie Bernstein

I’m thin-skinned from the
east coast, not thick
thick skinned like most;

I’m thin-skinned, I’m an orange
with too many seeds to
spit, not like the western
who is bright and
round and fit.

Nobody wants me, nobody
loves me; I lay in the
ground unspent; I’m an east-
coast Floridian orange and
I’m not worth one cent.

Dark Lover

William C. Burns

Your eyes
black obsidian

The past moves through your mind
disturbing the deep deep
waters in your eyes

The black ice
slices through your heart
leaving your hands cold
and your lips blue

The reflections of you image
skip across the mirror of jet
between us
Leaving holes in the walls behind me

I Wish My Mothe Hadn’t Told Me

Bernie Bernstein

When she was sixteen
she grabbed the tobacco stake
her mama was beating
her with and told her
she’d beat her the last time.
For years I’ve wondered
how Mama could turn around
twenty years later, give that woman
her way with meÑwhich was hard,
hard as the fact Mama hadn’t
want another baby but said
she grew to love me later.
What she didn’t say was when.


Denise Barbarita

thunder on the horizon
and the thought of you
makes my temperature rise
soaking in the humidity
hoping in an hour or less
the air won’t be hugging me so tight

searching for the thread
that links the thunder to the rain
that links me to your heat
that makes me wanna.......

pulled a loose end from the shirt
i’m wearing
button down
sleeves too long
cinnimon red
pulling it over my head
tossing it to the floor

and here i stand before you
awaiting the big storm
soft rains
come in waves
pelting the windowpanes
and i feel it coming
onward train
i feel it coming
towards me
feel your breeze
caressing me
releasing the heat
the wait ending

rain on me


William Bough

Happy, athletic, and full of life,
Called away from his family, his wife,
He had to go, a job to be done,
Wouldn’t be back till the battle was won.

At home family, friends, all full of fear,
Sending letters and parcels, with news and good cheer,
Out in the sands, he reads, he cries,
What’s to happen if he’s injured, or worse, he dies.

The world watched on T.V., like a video game,
After this, he knew, things won’t be the same,
We got the job done, finished off in a hurry,
All those at home were sick with worry.

Homecoming heroes, let’s buy them a drink,
Are you OK? I’m fine, I think.
Wife has her husband, the kids their dad,
Mother and father, happy to see the lad.

Getting back to normal, making up for lost days
But he’s different, strange, in habit and ways,
He’s distant, as if in some far off place,
Hair is greyer, etched lines on his face.

They all still love him, he feels the same,
Though a stranger, it seems, has his body and name,
Violent, moody, not the man they once knew,
When a stranger comes home, what do you do?


William Bough

Young life, future moulding,
Young mind, dreams holding,
Curiosity kills the cat,
Eighteen, invincible,
won’t consider that.

College study, pressure begun,
Night-clubs, pub fun,
Take pill, drink more,
Know the facts, know the score.

Mind expands, energy rises,
Death comes in all sizes,
Thoughts confused, brain explodes,
Cells die, tissue corrodes.

Lying still, hospital bed,
Nothing happening in the head,
Machine breathes, soul leaves,
Nothing to do, mother grieves.

Decisions made, switches off,
Chest falls, last cough,
Wasted life, lost destiny,
All in search of ecstasy.


Ann Boger

I want to be
the secret you
keep in your
pocket to pull
out during
stolen moments
of the day
making thrill’s
heat rise
like a fever
you can’t
quite shake,
keeping you
thirsty, oh
so thirsty.

The Squirrels
and Me...

Bernie Bernstein

...make quite a sight as I walk each
morning in the new sunlight, as
I stroll along with my left then
my right on the hard sidewalk. With

the squirrels by my side we make
quite a sight as they scamper to
my left, my left, then right.

we are all quite alone, my squirrels
and me as they jump and run so
playfully; up a tree, then a tree,\
left then right, just

my squirrels and me, we stroll
through the park where the wild
geese feed with a honk, honk,
honk and a graceful flap of wings
on this cold sunny

morning, with a left then right;
the squirrels and me make quite
a funny sight.


Bernie Bernstein

Because her stomach quivered
like it was filled with
bursting champagne bubbles,
because her pulse raced
like an armed robber
fleeing the scene of the crime,
because her panties moistened
like a teenage guy’s underwear
after an x-rated dream,
she called it love,
a misnomer she’d realize
too many years later.

poems by Ann A. Boger

Surban Contest

Bernie Bernstein

As Mr. Brown from
three doors down
idles the choke
on his lawn mower,
Ted next door
cranks his weed-eater,
and Donald across
the street revs up
his chain-saw:
yesterday’s warriors
in battles of the bands
playing the same old song.

Surburban Sorcerers
Neighborhood mothers
meet on the corner
to plan the annual
Halloween party
for their children.
Pizza, cupcake, soda
needs are tallied,
divvied up while behind
masks of co-operation,
abrasions left from
past petty words
burn into vows
to use whatever powers
necessary to conjure
for their own darlings
costumes with the magic
to turn the other women
into green-fleshed trolls.

Dark Echoes

William C. Burns
I lay
head under covers
Loud and angry men in the hallway
I hide here
pretend to sleep
they will go away

There is a loud thud on the door
and a pleading desperate voice
The sound of footfalls
and thunder in the night
I swallow hard
The silent darkness
is crushing

A Row of Burning...

Bernie Bernstein

bushes lights our way to grandfather’s
house on this crisp Thanksgiving Day.
The bushes glow in crimson

light between the white white
snow. We walk the lane as we
walked it before, momma and

me with our daughter Jan;
just us three to grandma’s
place in the deep deep country

with a burning bush and a burning
bush as we make our way
this November Thanksgiving Day

A Fellow Bird,
of An Ode To The Spring Of Life

George Christ

From dark horizons where the sun does rise
Into blue eternal tapestry skies
Where light-hearted clouds waiver and dance,
A fellow bird can be heard singing some
Jocund melody on its woddly branch.
Wantonly chirping to nature its praise
For dividing nights from summer days
And bringing light in spite of winter’s cowl,
That forth like larger birds of prey must come,
Devouring in its swoop all weakened fowl.
Rejoice we must for cageless carefree delight,
Remembering that dark will again fall,
In claiming the last breaths of earth and all.

A Tramp Abroad

by alan catlin

or maybe it should
have been abroad
atramp she was
one of those girls
that was born of
age a virgin converted
at birth conceived
to inspire an exotic
sexual famtast that
could never be fulfilled
it wasn’t difficult
imaging men dying for
or killing for a couple
of weeks as the object
of her desires or even terments just as long
as the potential for
having her even as an
afterthought or as
an object of contempt
somehow remained a
possibility I thought
she was capable of much
bigger events than this
one working some outback
lounge in a medium sized
city Upstate instead
of the strip in Vegas
or along the halls and
backrooms of Broadway
She had what every talent
scout in the world
was looking for in
abundance and she wasn’t
afraid to use it
Maybe she was looking for
a new agentor just slumming
on her own whatever it was
I didn’t mind lit her
cigarette when she was
ready slipped her one or
two on the house as pathetic
as the rest of mankind
indulging the impossible dream

The Old Man

William C. Burns, Jr.

He bragged about
beating Death at its own game
His sweat mixing with the soap
as he washed the car
His ratty T-shirt
showing his freckles and moles
on his back
And the scar of the man
that tried to kill him

Night Animal

William C. Burns, Jr.

In the darkness of the night
I told myself
that my eyes had adjusted
Told myself
the ebon landscape
had become my turf

Then you opened
that damned door
Your jet black silhouette
Framed in searing white light
etched itself on my retinas
And I could see only your darkness

I had to scream
There was no choice


William C. Burns, Jr.

The ivory Madonna
dressed in black
Fine pale pages
trimmed in jet

I have no dreams
But to open her
read her
Know her in every sense

The nubile
snow-flake princess
Vapor seed
from another place

I have no hands
But to touch her
melt her
Mixing her with my tears


Denise Barbarita

what’s all this noise about redemption
since when have sinners needed sanctity
girl’s got her hands
groping above her knees
ready to please the right sort of attention

and so i know this bug called love
he’s bitten me and left me screaming
got his peeps on me
and if it’s feeling like i gotta slap in the face
or having a hand in the right place
then what i’ve got is a friend

who likes to make me come
no more
no less
and in the end
it comes down to wanting
only what’s between the legs
otherwise he wouldn’t get some
and what he calls love
i don’t seem to know
but it’s the closest thing to love we’ve come to

War Prayer

alan catlin

Everyone in his
platoon had been
killed or maimed
in Tiet or maybe
it was at Danang
in ‘68 or ‘69 it
wasn’t clear which
but one thing was
certain what had
happened to him
was as immediate
as yesterday and
always would be
and no amount of
pints of Stout
with Power’s backers
was about to charge
that nor would
the Special Forces
prawer he was
mumbling to himself
before he downed
each shot and slid
the dead soldier
across the bar
for a refill losing
track of the body
count consuming
the evidence an
internal atrocity
no statistic could
ever account for

Geography Lesson

by alan catlin

My son said
he couldn’t
find Hell
on any map
couldn’t find
it on the globe
no matter how
hard he looked

I said
Son, you just
have to know
where to look

Spun the globe
and stopped it
at South East

Showed him

There it is
son, I said,
hell on earth

How do I know?

Easy, son, I’ve been
there and I ain’t
never going back

Not in this life

A Sonnett,
To Human Independence

George Christ

She shall tolerate, with arms isly crossed,
The lowest rung of this life’s long ladder.
On this street familiar she is still lost,
Absinthe ordbs gazing into forever.
His attention, elsewhere as is the case,
Most all the time remains like taste on lips.
Today’s new lodger demands he make kaste,
No time like waiters who linger for lips.
Aside someday she shall set the kerchief,
That she could not forget he provided.
Hel’’ be sitting as rigidly stiff,
like earth they’re deffering spheres united.
Perhaps she sould in their life’s time venture
A look on the other without sensure.

Dream of Loneliness

Dancing Bear

you are here
a dance at midnight
dressed in June
alone watch wait
satellite pale
no wonderment
tears for the loss of excitement
blue eye tide
wind ripples velvet skin
-what is empty never fills-
comfortable solitude
among small dancers
desperate to connect
circle you - ice real
move to the music of silence
damn your continents drift
and you cannot care
or reach out
even as lights begin to dim

the Prince and the Pauper

alan catlin

Their routine
was some
thing left
over from
The young
one was
wearing good
will reject
clothes that
looked as if
they had been
dragged through
the lower forty
with a body
still inside
them and smalled
just as bad
maybe worse
the older one
had a diamond
pinky ring
he wasn’t
afraid to show
off a gold
lighter he used
to light
English Oval
holding the young
ones hand
to steady
the flame
Ordered Russian
Vodka chilled
neat and some
real Scotch this
time not that
crap you’ve been
pulling off
the rack Make it
Glenlivet And Coke
for my young
friende There
wasn’t enough
money in his
wallet or on
his credit line
to force me to
make that drink
and there
never would be

My Mother’s Requests

two by Dancing Bear

my mother has phoned me
asking me for words I cannot give
it is awkward silence
some static on the line
I cannot agree to this
everyone has sinned but you
Mother who has but refuses them
my confessions are elsewhere
in wind and stone
dancing on water reflecting clouds
-there is nothing for this phone
Mother, I hate your impossible requests
that sit heavy between us like rifles
cold loaded always waiting


dave gitomer

is it not what’s carried
is it not what’s discarded,
or even attempted to be kept,
nor attempting keeping.
what is it?

Heather’s Television

two by Dancing Bear

low drum of heartbeats
under floorboards
Houdini whispering
beyond darkness
or control blood water
ghosts on the screen
power off
tube glows in the dark
spirit laughing
wants power on
move behind actors
stare at her
shadow flicker
Heather reflected
screen surface
static in head
something empty deep

Isis in Denial

by Joy Fairbrother

On the evershifting river’s edge.
in the shadow
of future pyramids,
Isis weeps for Osiris,
clutching the gory bites
of her cannibalized love
in small, tear-stained hands.

Her black hair curtain
flows like a river
raging tenderly,
bathing the lost god’s
dismembered corpse
in the wine of remembrance,
her history residing
in the scintillating rays
of his infrequent smiles.

Carnal knowledge incarnate,
she incubates her god,
feeling him form in her.
Isis, belligerent and bulimic,
gorges on his salty,
insufficient flesh
hoping to ingest
enough masculinity
to regurgitate him
naked, perfect and whole.

On her knees
on burning sand,
Isis chokes
on blood and semen;
convulsed by revulsion,
yet compelled to re-enact
this postcoital fleshfeast.

Sticking her tallow- stained hand
down her own throat,
Isis shudders
from the self-inflicted
violence of Osiris’ creation
and vomiting bone and gristle,
sacrifices herself
to give Osiris life.

“The Big Turn-Off”
Dancing Bear

I knew this woman-
a friend’s girlfriend
could stop clocks
the wall of TVs in
Wards Department store
would stare static
as she passed
she claimed-
coy smile-
her body had too
much electricity
called herself the dynamo
she didn’t last long
for my friend
I wonder if she
ever turned anything on


dave gitomer

transitional trauma,
variations in theme.
calibration of context,
permanence of position.
as all risen passes,
as new pasts arise.
venues dissipate,
experiences gained.
things can be either
trauma or ecstasy.
this is only for
observer to decide.
is it mournful fate?
or determined karma?
or aromatic destiny?
inner voices shun evaluation,
while exterior voices demand it,
eternal struggle, without
permanent resolution.


dave gitomer

curtains of rain, dancing drizzle
marrying martyred doom into eloquent
puddles, who answered rhetorically
with frenzied circular eddies, in
breathless moments, exhaling demise
on the puddle’s edge, exhaustion.
curtains of rain, moisturized sheets
filling earthbound puddle’s need and
desire, pounding drumbeats of dying
droplets, filling the midnight air with
ancient rhythms of primeval apocalypse.
satiating earth’s voracious thirst.
curtains of rain, relentless assault
wringing out tears of the heavens,
cleansing parched parochial soil, tree.
wavering with winds, striking aged
discordant harmonies, in syncopation
with the gust’s howl, voices of the
archetype, modern man never escapes.
curtains of rain, vividly dominant
then pass, after quenching the moment’s
flame, till next deluge resonates.


Izabel Sonia Ganz

Smile, smile, little girl,
keep that smile on your face.
Hide your anger, little girl,
it does not become your gender.
You may be smart, little girl
but conceal it well with smiles,
say but little, speak so sweetly,
never, never prove them wrong:
your main purpose in this world
is for boys to like you!

Smile, not-so-little girl,
as old doctor fondles you
“checking your responses”.
Maybe if you didn’t smile
he would not have pinched your nipples.
If you could have owned your anger
you would punch his yellow teeth,
kick his thin shins black and blue.
But how could you do it, girl,
without giving up your smile?

Smile, smile, now big girl
when the man in shining car
on your next Saturday date
forces his hard penis
deep between your trembling legs.
If you knew how to do anger,
if its fire had been cherished
not forbidden and suppressed,
you would scream and honk horn loudly,
knee him sharply in the groin,
stuff your nails into his eyeballs,
rather than hurt and afraid
cower and allow the rape.
Maybe you smiled too much
when he reached inside your pants...

Now I’m glad, my sharp old girl,
that in ripe years you have learned
both the value of your anger
and the high price of your smiles.

I Never Will Forget

Charlene Gonzales

Beneath the tinted glass, laid upon your heart,
the darkness left you all alone, and tore your mind apart.
Remembering the days, of happiness and fun,
made memories from the past, by the bullet from a gun.
I never could have known, when the call came that night,
they said that you had died, and left without a fight.
No friend has ever meant, as much to me as you,
I’ve wondered now for days, how I’m going to see this through.
We’ve seen and done it all, no secret left unsaid,
through all the ups and downs, but now they say you’re dead.
I can’t believe you’ve gone, what’s more it was your choice,
I’ll never see your face again, I’ll never hear your voice.
Your beauty shown from inside out, your heart so soft and warm,
you’d speak to me so sweetly, the calm before the storm.
I always swore your smile, was the sun in a disguise,
your laughter rings through my mind, your eyes light up the skies.
My heart feels hollow and alone, a wound that will not heal,
I sometimes wonder if you see, this emptiness I feel.
Still everyday your name appears, as if inscribed into my soul,
we swore that we were sisters, and together we’d grow old.
But the hardest part is yet to come, now I must let you go,
time continues to move on, you understand I know.
Please save me a place in heaven, a day to reminisce and play,
for you now hold the key, to the memories we’ll share that day.
I will always treasure, the precious moments of our past,
and I’m sure I’ll always wonder, why it didn’t last.
Your soul flies with no restraint, so peaceful and so free,
so I know that God was right, and this was always meant to be.
My love I send to you, though filled with sorrow and grief,
your stay here meant so much to me, no matter how long or brief.
So fly to brighter places, and go without regret,
for all these memories in my heart, I never will forget.
In dedication to my oldest and dearest friend Susie D. - died 11/24/95


by dave gitomer

vibrations askew
turn on echo
visions illustrated
turn on easel
verbosity aloud
turn on radio
musical interlude
without percussion
guitar strum beat
crashing chords
producing dulcet

A Love Story

Ronni Graham

The tears streamed from her eyes
All coming from those unbearable lies
They rolled down her cheeks
And onto the sheets
Oh how she cried so hard

What was to become of her?
Her life and dreams were a hazey blur
The love of her life
Had caused her such strife
How could she keep going on?

Her love had seemed so perfect and true
With a golden heart and eyes of blue
He said he loved her
And there was no other
Oh why did he go and leave?

Did she deserve all this agony and pain?
Did he really think of her with such disdain?
She would give so much
For his loving touch
But that just couldn’t be

She remembered their marriage
The rings, the dresses, the golden white carriage
The big white dove
And the passionate love
One that they both had shared

But there was something missing
Past all the gists and the kissing
Where was that care
That he used to bare
That had so carefully bound their love

Soon she found that there was another
Even though he had promised he loved her
She was hurt really bad
He had made her so sad
Could she continue living?

But she worry about him later
She had heard of a love much greater
His love could cure
His love was pure
He was the one called Savior

This Savior was as perfect as can be
Also called Blessed Trinity
He could save her from the heartache she was given
He would make her life worth liven
This Savior was Christ the Lord

Michaels Restaurant

David Hunter

$2.95; bacon (crispy), eggs (sunny-side up),
toast (brown) and the sideshow: local crims (Russian emigres)
plotting the takeover of Toronto.
They’re welcome to it.
Olgie the waitress pours
me a refill
like she’s draining the vein.

Out of Seasons

John Grey

What the weather can do to one leaf,
if I had the time to track.
How, under cover of light, the sun sears.
When, inflating with color,
it saps veings dry.
How in the mood for wind, for cold,
it sweeps them nowhere faster.
And then it shrinks life to buds,
to repetition, as if “here we go again”
is a reson to wince, to love.
How is the leaf were crumpled in your hand
I wouldn’t recodnize the pieces,
too full of the ages of man
as if that mattered.
And if it was sewed into you
by my extravagant touch,
it would just sprout myth and shadow,
nothing as solid
as what disappears before the eyes.
And if I had the time to track,
I would listen to its story
there, at the point of death,
when it had no story.

Brother Wayward’s Confession of Aggravated Deterioration

Michael Hall

Rat atat tatta,
Fools always scatter
By the masses.
I know
‘Cause I was once
The biggest fool of them

What has become of us:

life ... nothing but a pile of ashes.

atop a layer of molasses ...

goin’ nowhere fast,

only wonderin’

how long life’ll last?

death ... nothing but a puddle of blood


drowning fast

in our own ash,

lost in a past

of glory and infamy

like a ship without a mast.

There’s a need to see...
A need to see
That I am killing he.
Who is
My brother...
No one other
Than my own brother.

where everything is bright and tall

by Lisa Hemminger

where eyes were quick to catch entire auras
where mundane minutes
yanked attention forward like a sprained ankle, but painless
When you’re young and short expectations never have to measure up
And each new hope was hoisted up by sets of trusty mental suspenders.
You are ok for a while where you are
On the edge of our yard we can still see you
It’s your turn that we be adult and watch
You may play
Oooh! That pent-up goat of memory is got.
Somebody should tell these medics how, well, how were you?
Coming back from Europe recounting your losses in tented rooms?
OMIGOD I said aloud when I saw you
She’s left her eyes over there

is what I meant
But then with mine I noticed broken glass where replacement eyes once swam
From then we never saw each other the same but you learned to stumble Chicago again.
Someone should tell these doctors,
“Drop your mamsy pambsy cures, she’s a poet,
Instead of prognoses and oxygen this girl needs word and no thesaurus either.
Your brain alone will bring you back to where you need to be
On wider, broader, scenic, picaresque roads!”
Who care right now if you don’t know if you’re a woman or a man
Tell the graduated monitors to upstage themselves with a poem in you hand.
May in’s flow in bumpy big bite thoughts to grow like ivy in gray gardens
May you runaway train of thought enter thickets to come back and pick you up my friend
Let the poem explain for us all. She and you will try once more to toss the ball.
Some one should call and tell these doctors,
“There is a plan ...” and that you’ll be back when you’ve gathered enough from the second coat going over when you’ve said goodbye to saying goodbye to friends.
You are absolutely will where you are right now
Drinking up what only skies and kids know matters.
Later somebuddy
But only some buddy, spelled exactly as it sounds
more mind, some body
should visit you to comment on your gown.


Jeanne Langan

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
Yo, Dumpty,
You’re an egg, man.
Stop sitting on walls.

Murder of Love

Candace Hewitt

Midnight falls upon me.
The wind echoes through the
I wait silently in the dark,
my curtains are drawn.
You leave me,
will you ever come back?

My heart, heart grows wings
to fly away.
I am empty deep inside.
Where did you go?

You return to me with my,
heart in your hands.
Your shirt covered with glowing
red blood.

You fall into my lap,
your breath slowly slipping
You whisper,
I love you.

The salty tears roll down my face.
You are gone.
Now I am alone.
Goodbye my love.


Donna Patitucci

I longed for a pair of real Doc Martens:
big black sturdy boots with the trademark yellow stitches
encircling the edge of the soles.
But being so skinny,
I had to sttle for a slightly more petite pair:
clunky just the same, but shy of ridiculous-looking.
Maybe I thought I’d be tougher in some big black boots.
Maybe I though I could stand up to him, wearing threatening shoes.
The first time I wore them, I found us eye to eye
our boots staring each other down on the sidewalk below.
I focused and told him he didn’t matter,
what happened didn’t matter.
My boots are finally breaking in;
the leather creases with every journey I set them on.
The shine is dying from being stepped on
by greater, more menacing boots,
from being splached with too much beer.
I too am losing my shine,
tarnish a bit every time I’m trampled on.
And every time his eyes refuse to meet mine anymore,
I realize:
His boots are bigger than mine.

thruth serum

by normal

for six months we pumped
drugs / fucked ourselves
thru the pillows / looked
into eacho thers eyes sing-
ing songs of love so intense
that raw ecstacy covered our veins.

then one day the drugs ran

we looked ito each others
eyes and didn’t know what
to say

baiting minnows
with my single father

Brian McKay

you hold ‘er tight in yer hand,
push the hook under the top fin and
through ‘er back.

the minnow twirls on my line,

a covergirl in a silver sequin dress

ogling me and blowing kisses.

when you got ‘er hooked right she ain’t gonna get off.
always hook ‘er in the back,
if you hook ‘er through the lips,
she can’t breathe or swim right,
and the big fish, they’ll feel the hook right away.

after a soft eon, i reel in;

an empty gold claw no. 5 and

a bead od Canadian water.

dang, she musta broke ‘er back
to get off yer hook.

An Easter Fool


broke on Easter morn
himself risen

bleary-eyed java-free
pockets turned
to wind
like windsocks

Easter Fool broke
off a wall

“There’s glory for you”

quite delicately

jokes run
down his portfolio
as he lives
egged on

by his cohorts
falls into elevator

to be
out of their range
of yokes

the prosioner

Jerry Oleaf

No reason for me to be in this cell No reason for my present condition. Nothing here even halfway beautiful. Not even a small trace of compassion. What do the stars think of my destiny? Are they planning any more crazy turns? What moves does the wind have lined up for me? Does the sky hear my weeps and sigh and mean? There is just one side to the coin of luck. Nothing to look at but metal and brick.


Steve Riscica

Laying on my bed, I can’t get to sleep again
Hearing the soap operas arguing in my mind again,
Pillow over my head, trying to block out the voice again
Thinking of ways to let myself free
But I know it will never come true
Never know what I’m wanting to do.

Should I keep smiling wearing another person’s clothes again,
Go with the mainstream, don’t go against the grain again,
Wearing this mask there’s only so much you can take
Should I stop lying and learn to come clean again?
Or is it just a mistake?

Is being the outcast the only way to happiness?
Is what is right really worth all this loneliness?
Is there a way I can ever clean up this mess?
Will I ever know what to do?
Will I ever be close to you?

Hopelessly conducting the devil’s sweet symphony,
Trying to hard to get you to believe in me,
Feeling the monster clawing at the soul inside of me,
I try to defend but his power soon consumes me,
And still I lye awake,
Never knowing which road to take.

Debating on whether to wake up in the morn again,
Whether to fight the apparitions of hope again,
Wanting my hands to run through your hair again,
But I never know how to feel,
I don’t even know if it’s real


by Groge Christ

Scraping onyx from my hollowed bowl,
In the reeking resin I’m mummified,
Or unable to scream what’s only been whispered,
Then addition usurps me from lucity’s eye.

As an atheist, however, I’m content with scaling
In those recurring choices that lead to damnation.
So the picture of Jeses prays backward.
Swollen crucifi: upside down fashion.

I enlighten at once, both pipe and I.
Oh luminance from Bic’s mighty torch,
Providing discordant hellish luminance
Despite the coming stoned ebony coach.

While sould are grilling in brimstone kilns
Mines shall traipse, high, through the devil’s parlor.
He’ll hug his new son. I’ll pass him my bowl.
And we’ll stink, all-too-hell, Elysium’s pallid ardor.

The President Visits Springfiel

George Chris

...dripped from her head
thinking for a moment
she’d be better off dead than here
amidst fellow Americans,
fir the most American person of all.

...long time passes
though quarters are cramped she’s
still on the grass
ample space provided
for such an event.

...should have predicted
as much
considering big-wigs and all
but the stalling
on their part
was suspence in effect.

...grand arrival
celebration and,
as is tradition
“hail to the chief”
and his
anticipated glow.

...he said.
she had strained her ear
in the direction of the nearby speaker
to faintly hear
what sounded like

and rally in fire-ant fashion
to the sincerity
and passion
of this suit’s

...motorcade made its way
down Vine and Main
to the beach
then back again
toward the land of television.

< your fine brown hair >
your hat

ray heinrich

oh that hat of yours
i can see that hat
and your hand
taking it off
and all your fine brown hair falling through our story
and clasped
and braided
your fine brown hair
and lathered
and rinsed
falls through our story
in showers
and baths
in oceans
and seas
your fine brown hair
in the summer winds
of a back porch
then fall
and winter
falls through our story
hiking a west slope
with the sun through it
your fine brown hair
at night
as it falls on my chest
falls through our story

< bleeding >

ray heinrich

i know you know where i want to be
(bleeding at the bottom of your pink sea)

< dinner species >

ray heinrich


(and you, the bacteria whisper)

< an audience with the dust queen >

ray heinrich

how good the tea was
in her third month of remission
and the cucumber sandwiches
how impossibly thin
“that was the cutest dog that won at Westminster”
she said
i said
“oh yes!”

< you and the rain >

ray heinrich

you’re quiet
and that usually means rain
of course
it rains
and i worry
as i dream of you
cut up by the rain
great splashes of you


C Ra McGuirt

here I am about to
pick up my Russian nephew
(as opposed to my Scotch-Irish/
Tahitian-Samoan nephew)
from kindergarten at the school
across from the store where I used to buy
my comic books and cigarettes
when I was too young to drive.

I make the market to snag a beer
and find some Little Kings Cream Ale
on sale for a dollar thirty-five a quart.
It seems a bargain, so I take two,

even though I know
that my money’s running low
and that twenty years of beer
have failed to save me.

I have some bills to mail
and there’s a box

right by the phonebooth...
know that phonebooth...
my old phonebooth...

I’ll be damned.

That’s the same booth I used to use
to make my sensitive substance deals
away from authoritarian ears
in the days when I was living
just an easy walk from here.

It doesn’t look as though they’ve changed it.
That dust could be eighteen years old...
As I drop the letters, I have to think

Maybe there’s a poem in this...

And then I see
standing by the phonebooth

someone with a brand new beard
wearing ancient jeans
mirror shades and an acid grin
pointing a finger at himself

It’s myself at seventeen,
saying I predict

that you will graduate eighty-fourth
in a class of two hundred and twelve,
drop out of college
go to Europe
and be married.

You’ll have one late affair, and be
divorced for other reasons.
You’ll never go back to college
so far as I can see.

You’ll chef to suvive
for fourteen years,
fall, and recieve a settlement
which you will have squandered
by the time that you meet me.

We’ve had two women, and at least
eighteen more are waiting:
if you survive the Arizonan
you should be with the Muscovite
by now...

You’ll stop writing poetry
be bitten by a spider
become a professional wrestler
and go to New Orleans.

You’ll drive a truck to Tampa
always have trouble sleeping
and think that you’ve gone crazy
on more than one occasion.

You’ll consider suicide
be totally self-indulgent
and make a fucking fool of me
at least ten thousand times.

Your best poems are before you
and I don’t see your name in lights
but i hear it on the street sometimes.
It could be that you might

mean something more
than you do right now,

but I’m not promising

You’ll move in with your father
watch your grandad die
drive his Delta 88
and pawn that ring he gave you.

You’ll waste all of your patience
on those who don’t deserve it,
treat the best ones badly
and wallow in regret.

One day, you’ll wake to check the mail
and there will be nothing there for you.

You’ll notice that you need new tires.
Too bad you put them up your nose
when you had money. Your woman will be
sick with stress, and nothing you do
will even begin to make it right.

The book you thought
would sell by then
will not.

Your woman will send you to pick up the child
of her visiting sister, and you will agree,
go down the road and stop for beer
buy Little Kings Ale and meet yourself
for a moment or two, and take the child
home and feed him, and make his bed;
drink two quarts of Little Kings Ale
while trying to make a poem of me

and dinner for your woman
and a paper airplane for the child
neither of whom will be satisfied.

Tomorrow, you’ll clean crappers
and empty trash. On Thursday night
you’ll run the monthly open mic.

I don’t know if you’ll win the Slam
next month, or when your woman
will sleep with you again.”

Then what good are you? I asked.

He laughed and faded. I drove across
the street to the school

picked up the kid,

and this is how
it ends

until tomorrow.


Cheryl A. Townsend

He told me I was
too tight to be married
I told him obviously
he had never been married


Cheryl A. Townsend

I can hear his little
whimper whines as I
sniff and lick his dog
hair groin like a
whelp I suckle on
protuberance and
wait for a milky flow
as doggie dreams escape
and his legs twitch


Cheryl A. Townsend

His eyes are magnetic
His ass is creamy
His lips are meant to sate
my yearning nipples
His voice is orgasmic lapses
of contentment
His crotch ain’t available
in word form
and he sold me
more than I could
ask for


Cheryl A. Townsend

It was not always so casual
his hand cupping her breasts
matter-of-factly much like one
would some novelty item created
to release stress by simply squeezing
there were times when it was like
forbidden given unrestrainable
sensations to them both liquid
and very rigid always so new
no matter how many times actual
and the flick of his tongue or
soft wet and warm lips just
wrapped around her nipples would
nearly peak all on its own but
now spontaneity has left for
laughter or tears when the sexual
is by appointment only


Cheryl A. Townsend

me a blue sky future big
cherry blossom kisses at
the close of day fetal arms
at my every need and an
I Do for every occasion but
I’ve rained every day since


Cheryl A. Townsend

me during an all night
drinking binge that he
just needed to find him-
self a sperm-burping whore
and everything else would
be okay


Cheryl A. Townsend

her red hair around
his near purple cock
pumping that barrel
like an air rifle
as his tongue shot
perfect bulls-eyes
one after another
to her clit


Cheryl A. Townsend

pulled in my eyes as
it led me up the aisle
of my actual need When
he explained features I
could not ignore his As
he spoke I felt creamy
in his sight and pulled
into his lips by breasts
I wanted to surrender


Cheryl A. Townsend

decadence just below my
vestal silken facade his
fingers like moles in my
bra rooting for a place to
rest for awhile


Paul Weinman

Perhaps it’s his job
that hurried work
as UPS driver.
Quick, aggressive delivery
handling all-sized boxes
briskly, but not brusquely
that led him so deeply
into women’s breasts.
He’s not callus about it
carries on spirited
always upbeat and eager.
As with the deliveries
it’s more than just a job
- there’s a certain feeling -
he sometimes says wistfully.
- Part of my life
but not a way of life. -


Paul Weinman

At lunch-table she touched my ankle
toes doing unusually nimble things
- caused my sandwich to pull apart.
She still talked of Progress Reports
cited charts to back her points.
But her toes inched upwards
made their turn where my knee bends
paused as if for breath
then inched almost in slide
along the innersides of my thighs.
The others nodded at her conclusion.
I came in my pants.


Paul Weinman

Sporadic thoughts of fingertips
doing hoppity-hop over your skin
caused me to lose my place
in listing people who’d died of drugs
last week. Those smooth slopes
of thighs were the most diverting
even causing my left hand
to raise up, gallop across your prairie.
I’d do a drag of smoke to slow
settle into a slower trot. But then
the corral loomed up, its gate ajar.
I tried to pull back with that child
smothered by her mother in Chicago
came up for count. But I lost hold
reins flapped wildly, heels jammed
in stirrups with that bucking
neighing frantically to finally slow
heavy-breathed at the trough
a final toke at dismounting.


Paul Weinman

I such her socks
as she prepares for work.
I do it noisily - work toward
crescendos as lipstick strokes skin.
“Have you had enough?”
I ask for her bra.
I beg for panties...
she gives me a handkerchief.
She gives me a list
of dirty things to consider
until we meet again at dinner.

Niskyuna 3/24

We wondered
how in the world
she could
have kept
that thumb tack
there. Called it
her cocktack


Paul Weinman

She’d teased me
about that time
she took me
to her
I told her
I’d tell mom.
Said if I did
she’d ask
what I did
last night
with what
she saw
sticking up
in my sheets
just washed.


Paul Weinman

“Time for digits to do slow dance,”
she says as she pushes sodden sheets
pushes them grey to where skin shines
where little beads of sap spread
as my fingertips start doing easy things.
“Nibble my petals as they unfurl.”
And my lips make murmurings
their slit swelling and receding
with its ropy lips nipping flesh
mushing nipples’ skin
with talk doing two-step.


Opening the closet door
she caught me stuffing my thingy
into the larger of the turtle shells.
“What’s the matter, isn’t it big enough?”
I grinned, asked of Wall St. reports.
Making her mouth do mockery
she took her nose off again
stuffed it into a little pocket
where her nipple hid. A pocket
for what? I wondered.
“Watch when I sneeze.” She winked.
“That little bit of drip
will make your weenie get big.”
It did.

pond touch

paul weinman

You and I were tongue in tongue
where we tried to walk on water
only to have young toes snipped
by turtles. You said we should
etch initials on their backs
but our faces got buried in flesh
before we remembered our names.

The Haze Is

Doug Calhoun

The haze is the smoke from the porch seeping into the dining
room from the cigarettes and joints of darkly clad cheap thrill
seekers and it’s the banshee scream of the treble of the abysmal
groan of the bass from the window-shaking speakers that pound
like my heart through the drone as I notice the floor of the
kitchen sticks like barleycorn glue to my sneakers.

The haze is new smoke from the oven where someone burnt
tomorrow’s night’s pizza and its everywhere thickening while
the smoke alarm shrieks for order through the chaos but it’s
annoying and sickening but not as bad as the sound when it’s
torn like a scab from the ceiling and the haze is the dim
pounding pulse climbing a hill of euphoria and quickening.

The haze is the shudder of surrender after the liquid fire
sweeps down your throat followed by the simmer of longnecks
and the subsequent feeling of treading and then drowning in
the sweaty pools of prospects of sex and the pounding that
explodes through your headas it climbs its mountain of
excitement to an orgasmic apex.

The haze is the kid in the leg brace who’s crying and bumping
into the china cabinet screaming “someone gave my a pill” and
colliding with the graveyard of empty bottles and cans that
spill and dribble their last drips of blood from the chipped
windowsill and the rate of pounding that tires and slows down
now that it’s reached the top of the hill.

The haze is the hormone flow that drowns the kind-eyed pock-
faced hero until he starts playing the fool and it’s also the
lion that snatches away his virgin ruby-lipped maiden so she
can drown in his drool and it’s the steady procession of
lemmings that crowd laughing and nude to leap for their lovers
into the cold backyard pool.

The haze is your girl’s silhouette intertwinded on the lawn with
the shadowy figure of who was once your best friend and the quick
snap of your heartstrings that took months of cold comfort and
patience to mend and the haze is that pound from below, slower,
that’s reached the hill’s rocky summit and can only descend.

The haze is the rising stink of bomit from the pristine bathroom
floor and the surprising resistance of your own bedroom’s locked
door and the cries of you girlfriend within screaming for more
and a mass exodus of writhing humanity that fruns from the house
like ooze from an open sore.

Now I’m alone with the haze, and it’s the desolation of darkness,
and it’s the decadence of the light, and it’s the moke that
stung my tearducts but purified my sight, and it’s the pound that
kept slowing and slowing until it reached the hill’s dirty base,
and gave up the fight.

In between

Darius Savage

in the flatlands
you wouldn’t believe
the violence of our miracles,
like slopes of psychotic weather,

or that we have real cause
for daily fear
beyond an occasional
headline & hunt for rapists
or a thief.

It’s certain
that our boredom stems from
an absence of catalyst,
of risk; I sit watching (me &)
thunder through a scroll of windows.

in a sometimes friendly dive,
listening to the maybe-was soccer hero
who claims to have been
a Marine assassin in his youth,
thinking how
oddities are oblivious to location

and how our postcards might look-
if we were honest.

the sign reads
regular $1.15
and bush says
war is fine
that death is
and I watch on t.v.
as they drag
an empty body
and throw it
on the pile


James Hartnett

A stranger on my couch
slumped over
with beer in hand
in a slurred mumble
you tell me
to burn in hell
and so
I leave you alone


James Hartnett

I turn around
and tell you
there won’t be
a next time
you can
only break
a heart once
my heart

I lost my tooth in a pile of rocks

James Hartnett

on a baseball diamond
etched in concrete
with glass and rocks
and bloody knees
a playground not a vacant lot
with 12 foot high security fence


James Hartnett

the sign reads
regular $1.15
and bush says
war is fine
that death is
and I watch on t.v.
as they drag
an empty body
and throw it
on the pile.


James Hartnett

an old lady
sits passively
on the beaten park bench
questioning passing squirrels


James Hartnett

I have seen the other side of you
through the barbed wire and broken glass
(that consumes your soul)
you made love to me
then you made leave of me


James Hartnett

To look back
would cost me my sanity
to look away -
my heart


James Hartnett

I rolled over
to say good morning
but you were gone
the sheets still warm from your presence
I close my eyes
and cry myself to sleep
feeling the distance


James Hartnett

I feel you near me
and I want you closer
I reach out
wanting your touch
needing you
hoping you will see
what you mean to me


James Hartnett

I stand quaking
holding my heart
in open hand
fingers still trembling
from memories of you
a closer look -
I find it meshed
with your fingerprints
(you left your mark
and then you left)

black widow

James Hartnett

her blood red lips
dripping with my love
as she smiles at me murderously

“Service Recalls Forgotten Dead”

Diane Kruse

a high school band from Orland Park
played at the Daley Civic Center Plaza
and a person dressed as a giant toothbrush
walked among a somewhere crowd
and Rev. Nathanial Jarrett
in a silent Chicago temple
began reading names.

This was the fourth annual service of
the Memorial Ministry for Indigent Persons.
On the five lists
that Rev. Jarrett and Sr. Joan McGuire
took turns reading
were 172 names
(when no family or friends
came forward to claim the bodies
they were forwarded
to Homewood Memorial Gardens

Rev. Joseph Ledwell gets a call from the cemetery
that a truck is coming)

how many unfulfilled hopes
those names embodied; how many dreams
went awry

three of those buried in November
and three in January

after each list of names was read,
a single bell

Someday My Prince Will Go

Heather Dyer

You were my birch-bark blue fairy
and my Disney prince.
“Close your eyes and make a wish.”

I stood on tiptoes, holding the star high
above my head- my freehand fanning my tail
of females I could be.
“Unto you a child is born.”

Choose a child, any child.
You reached out a hand and
I smiled in Crystalman-victory.

But you’re a Peter Pan person
with plenty of pixie dust.
Your hand could fly- You could fly; you could fly.
You stole the star instead and
my fake feathers fell to the floor.
You tossed your jeans on top of Jiminy Cricket
and I counted kisses and marveled at
how horribly heavy my phony plumage had been.

I love your pixie dust-
But I can fly without it now- if I have to.

I’ve blown out the candle
and made my wish-
and what I want
is happy thoughts for you.
Even if it means I can’t be in them.

Going Bald

Anthony Robottom

“God, you’re going bald” he says.
“I have too many male hormones”
I attempt a witty reply.
But he’s right. I had noticed it before.
Old before my time.
Nineteen, and I can say “Goodbye hair”.
I run my hands through it.
And some of them curl in my fingers.
Detached from my head. A few less every day...
I look in the mirror and try to imagine me, with it gone.
As the front catches up with the back,
I remember my Grandfather, and all the times
I found his hair loss funny.
Justice I guess.
I look in the mirror.
I shall never again see Robert De Niro in it,
or anyone with lots of hair.
I shall have to buy a hat, or three.
“You could get a toupe” he says.
And pretend for ever that its real.
Until my girl, in the throes of her
passion, grabs at my hair.
And off it comes in her hands.
“God, you’re bald” she’ll say.

anthony robottom

A callous reproach, I was told.
A black and heartless deed, it was said.
Whilst he lies thrown, cast down against
His living room wall.
He sleeps in his room, once more.
But not in his bed, any more.
He lies fallen close by, as if
Collapsing in stupour, he missed and hit the floor.
And I can’t get over it,
There’s that look of surprise
In his eyes.
As if he’d never expected, a gunman
To blow him away,
For the trouble of his watch and VCR.

anthony robottom

Woken by the most annoying sound in the universe.
An alarm clock from hell.
I leap from Utopian dreams, and from under the sheets.
Seven o’clock in the morning.
Not even morning; seven midnight.
I drag clothes on. The ones I find on the floor.
Drag myself down to breakfast.
I go into the cold, looking like someone who slept outside.
Go to class, like a zombie.
Night follows morning, and that was the
Seven thousand, one hundred and ninety second day.

The Infomaniac

by Joe Speer

(Joe enters the office of Dr. Dorothy R. First)

Dr. Dirst: Hello. May I help you?
Joe: My name is Speer. I have an appointment with Dr. First at one p.m.
Dr. First: I’m Dr. First. Have a seat, Mr. Speer. I’ll just pull your file.
Joe: Thanks.
Dr. Dirst: I see by my information that you are a nymphomaniac.
Joe: No, I’m an infomaniac.
Dr. Dirst: Oh, yes. And what does this mean, Mr. Speer?
Joe: That’s what we call ourselves. The people that travel the superhighway gathering info and always on top of the latest supermodels. We are plugged in and connected to the world-wide web.
Dr. Dirst: And how did you become a nym, I mean, infomaniac?
Joe: People started asking me for my smail or phone number. Everybody wanted to contact me through e-mail. So I went on line. I started out as a casual user at a coffee house. I entered chat rooms. I love to monitor mars. Scubido.
Dr. Dirst: And did your usage increase?
Joe: Yes. I started out with just a few hits on the weekend.
Dr. Dirst: And how many hours a day do you hit?
Joe: I’m at the computer eight hours a day now.
Dr. Dirst: And do you have a job?
Joe: Yes. I work forty hours a week. When I work I mean.
Dr. Dirst: You don’t work all the time?
Joe: No. I can’t. I’m too busy on the computer.
Dr. Dirst: Well, how long has it been since you went to work, Mr. Speer?
Joe: Actually, I haven’t been to work in four days.
Dr. Dirst: Four days!
Joe: I tell you I don’t have time because I’m always on line. I hardly see my family and I have to pay a neighbor to feel my cats.
Dr. Dirst: Exactly what is your problem, Mr. Speer?
Joe: I’m addicted. This addiction is tearing my soul apart. In fact this trip to your office the longest I’ve been off line. And I’m starting to feel anxious. Can you log me in here?
Dr. Dirst: I’m sorry, Mr. Speer but my database is currently updating and my desktop is not available.
Joe: I don’t care about your updating. I want to download on your terminal now.
Dr. Dirst: All right. Calm Mr. Speer. I’ll fix you up. I’ll feed you some electronic impulses. (Dr. First turns on her computer)
Joe: (playing with the mouse) Ahhh, yes. I feel better now. Thanks Dr. First. You can turn it off now. I can make it back to my apartment without freaking out.
Dr. Dirst: I don’t think I can help you, Mr. Speer.
Joe: After a fresh hit I don’t need help. I’ll be okay. See you later, Dr. First.
Dr. Dirst: Call me back, Mr. Speer. Maybe I can recommend some virtual reality sessions. One of the many problems I face. Wait a minute. This looks interesting. Netscape. I will cancel my appointment and stay, on line. (She plays with the mousse.) Ahhh, yes. (fade out)


Christopher Stolle

Hold onto hope
That wants to slip through
Keep dreaming your dreams
For they make everything new
The weak and weary will stand
On hope they continue to hold
When the wild wind blows
They will never feel the cold

Hold onto hope
As echoes light the flame
Change the pace in things you do
So that nothing seems the same
Bring back the desire of yesterday
While children laugh in delight
Delegate your memories told
So everything stays in the light

Hold onto hope
While your heart swells within
Accept what you know can change
As any virgin can sin
Remember darkness sees no color
Because it has no eyes
But now it’s time to take notice
Of every single thing that cries

Hold onto hope
For silence asks you to follow
Now you feel clouds strain
As you try to eat your pride and swallow
Now forces of the past refrain
From telling you how to live life
Take a hand in each and squeeze
Because alone we are left in strife

Hold onto hope
So we can take in the scenery
Seasons change often
Which keeps hope for spring’s greenery
All the while, the rich get richer
While the poor keep dreams to confess
So tell the old man he can smile
Because money doesn’t equal happiness

Now the glory can finally be told
The needs of humanity will grow
But if you suppress all your hopes
Then no one will ever know
In time, all things will settle into place
We’ll have the answers as to how to cope
But we will never know what we can achieve
If we don’t hold onto hope

philosophy monthly

I had to conclude this book with a small essay that kept me in stitches. We hope you enjoy...
- j.k.

essay from Matt Yotko

“A Rant of My Own” is a poorly written attempt on my part to voice my thoughts regarding issues present in the media. Or, I might just use it to whine about something that’s bothering me. The reader can feel free to argue, debate or simply dismiss my views as sheer idiocy. If you would like to debate, you can email me and I will be happy to discuss any views that you would like to put forward. Who knows, if your arguments are compelling enough, I might just post your rebuttal as well! Enjoy.

Some Thoughts On Censorship

A lot of discussion in the media lately has centered on the recent violence amongst the nation’s youth. Of course, as we’re all human, we feel compelled to place blame for these incidents. Much of this blame has been directed in two areas in particular. Violence in media (i.e. television, movies, video games) and violence available on the Internet. I would like to address this issue.
When the founding fathers of this country sat down to write the constitution, I’m absolutely certain that they could never have envisioned the magnificent expansion that technology has provided us in sharing thoughts, views, and information. However, their basic premise that thought should never be regulated, and information should never be controlled still rings true today.
Proposed laws, such as the ‘Victim Recompense Act of 1999’ seek to “hold accountable” the manufacturers of violent content. The basic premise of this act would be to allow the government to set up a set of media standards, beyond which the manufacturers of media would be taxed. Said U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) “The common strand in every school shooting and thousands of other shootings involving children each year is this: all of the children gorged themselves on a steady diet of violence and mayhem. This bill will go a long way in healing the wounds the media has caused. If one child is saved because we put a 50% tax on movies such as ‘Natural Born Killers,’ it will be worth it,”
Now, that certainly sounds like a powerful argument in favor of such a bill. After all, won’t somebody PLEASE think about the children! It is however a violation of the second amendment based on an obviously gross generalization. I have a better solution. Instead of expecting the government to assume a role that it was never intended for, namely the raising of our children, why don’t we instead take that responsibility onto ourselves?
The Columbine incident, while deplorable, is a perfect example of this lack of accountability of the nation’s parents. These students managed to collect an arsenal of firearms and construct literally hundreds of explosive devices without so much as a peep from their parents. Instead of saying “What can the government do about this?” we should be saying “What in the HELL were those parents so damn busy with that they didn’t notice the mounds of explosives that their children were producing?”
Lawmakers have very little motivation to pursue this line of thinking though, because the majority of the voting public is in the age range for parenting children. Their jobs depend on telling the people who are voting for them exactly what they want to hear. So, rather than placing the blame on those teenagers and their grossly negligent parents, laws are proposed to enact a proverbial “burning of books.”
This has never been, and will never be, a good or correct solution to any problem that occurs in society. Taxing violent content, banning Internet content and restricting information will only lead us down a path of ignorance and intolerance. Albert Einstein once said “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” People will always do stupid things, commit violent acts and seek to hurt and control each other. It’s simply in our nature. Banning an Internet site on bomb making isn’t going to stop that any more than taxing violent movies will. The only path to tolerance and peace is enlightenment, and any rule or law that hinders the sharing of thought, in any fashion, will ultimately slow our progress toward that goal.
(To steal a quote from Dennis Miller) Of course, that just my opinion, I could be wrong!
But I doubt it

As promised, whenever I engage in an email debate regarding one of my rants, and I find my opponent to have a valid arguement, I’ll post it here. Of course, I’m not exactly sure if this particular opponent was all that worthy, but if nothing else, she was certainly entertaining.
So, I receive this email just as I’m about to leave work on Wednesday evening...

Original Message
Subject: You’re mean web page
I have a debate for you. How about your an ass! It ‘s people like you who are mesing up the country for the resrt of us. if you werent so mean, youd realize that your atitude is really unkind a mean. If i was you, Id watch my back because if i had you’re adress, id send you a bomb in the mail and wach you explode on my tv. that woudl be very funny and youd deserve it because your an asshone! SO GET OFF YOU’RE DAM BUT AND GET THAT MEAN AND UNKIND STUFF OFF YOU’RE WEB PAGE. Im all for free speeck but if you think your so smart then ill bet you i’m twice as smart cause i brought another life into this miserable world and im smart cause i dont have to go around telling other people who i dont even know just how smart i am and how good i am and all that like what yo have to do. If im not stupid then your stupid! i hope you have to go thru the miracle of birth someday so you see how hard It is and how its good to help me anyway you can then you can see how smart i am!

Now, I really didn’t believe that any one person could generate so many errors in one piece of correspondence, so I thought one of my friends must be screwing with me. After asking everyone I would suspect though, it turns out that this person must actually exist!